31 December 2009

Is That Too Much to Ask?

or How You Know When You Are Laying It on a Bit Thick

Obsessed. Supremely focused. Singularly occupied. Wholly devoted.

All phrases that describe my 11-year old's love affair with the Wii. He has wanted one thing, and one thing only this week: playing time. When not playing the Wii, he has been looking up new games on the internet (scary) and making endless lists of the games he wants to buy when he comes into some money. It's all he talks about. It's all he thinks about. It is his crack.

(We have always been an anti-game system family. We somehow convinced ourselves that a Wii would be different, and got one for the kids for Christmas. We may well regret this decision; the verdict is still very much out.)

It's been a little bumpy for us, but not surprising. This is how he gets: he's been this way about the World Cup and about Shakespeare, so it's par for the course for him. He comes by it honestly -- his own father can have a similarly tenacious hold on a subject of interest, to the obliteration of all else.

But then, we are the parents, and it's our job to teach him how to handle new things, like the Wii, and to understand where a video game fits into the overall experience of life. This may prove harder than we think.

Last night, he was obsessing about games: which ones he wants, and when and where we can get them. (Can we go to Blockbuster now and rent one? Can we join a game site now to have them delivered to our door? Can I borrow some money now and buy one tonight from Amazon?) Phew!

We were in the kitchen making dinner (Rick was making another paella), and our beautiful boy was pushing hard for games, games, games, and playing, playing, playing time. He already had friends over for an entire afternoon of Wii-playing, so it was "screens off" for everyone at this point in our evening. He was lobbying for more time. It was pretty intense, and a little disturbing. We tried to talk to him. About how it's OK to do something different, to read, for example. "I just read for 15 whole minutes!"

The poor kid was going crazy with desire. Eventually, he was so exasperated he blurted out: "I just want more stuff to play with!"

Rick came up with this: "Do you know what Jesus says about people who have too much stuff? That 'it's easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.'" (Big eye roll here) "He also says to give up all your possessions and follow him."

Panicked kid: "I'm not going to give up my possessions!"

Us: "Well, the point is that material possessions are not what's most important in life." At some point, Rick said something about eternal life, and so brought on the conversation ender from our kid:

"I don't want eternal life! I just want some video games!"

Touché, kid.

* * *

30 December 2009

Health Care Reform

It was the strangest thing, but I was just walking along, minding my own business, when I fell off the edge of the internet! Thus explains my extended hiatus from blogging: it's taken me awhile to claw my way back up to my keyboard. I'm still a little tired from the effort, so my first foray back into blogging is borrowed.

Yesterday, the San Francisco Chronicle printed a letter to the editor written by my father, a wise man indeed. I am reprinting it here. Without further ado...

* * *

Health Care Reform
How history will judge us

Soon Congress will pass a watered-down version of a health care bill that falls far short of what most governments see as routine and responsible.

Historians of the future will look back on this time and wonder why Uncle Sam could not manage to provide easily accessible health care to his citizens. They will wonder at our unwillingness, unlike every other industrialized nation of the 2000s, to offer government-provided medicine to those unable to afford private plans. "What were they thinking?" historians will ask.

Here's the answer: We are thinking that profit margins for health care and pharmaceutical corporations are more important than treating and preventing disease and treating injuries for our citizens. Perhaps someday the priorities of this nation will improve, but for the present, our intentions are clear.


* * *

20 December 2009

Creative Christmas Carols

We've been singing lots of Christmas songs around here. My kids sometimes hear the words a little creatively. OR...

I've got a little capitalist on my hands:

"Go, sell it on the mountain, over the hills and everywhere; Go, sell it on the mountain: Jesus Christ is born."

And apparently, we've got a little work to do regarding the Reason for the Season:

"Glory to the new born thing!"

Can't wait to hear what they do with Silent Night.

* * *

17 December 2009

Reflections on a Christmas Program

Is my kid the only kindergartner with a big smudge of green ink on her face?

Is my 2nd grader the only one with a huge clump of hair hanging down in her face? It appears that all those other girls are perfectly coiffed.

Why does my 4th grader look like he is being choked by his tie, which is pulling strangely up and to the left?

Is my 5th grader really that bored by the proceedings, or is his arm injured in a such a way that he physically cannot hold his sparkly star any higher than his elbow, rendering it at least 6 inches lower than the stars of all of his classmates?

Are we the only parents who yelled at their kids in the 15 minutes prior to the festivities?

Are we the only family to arrive at this Celebration of the Season with more than 50% of us grumpy?

Is my three-year old really going to throw herself around like a rag doll and shriek like the monkey she wishes she were for the entire program, causing lots of people to toss sympathetic smiles and delighted giggles my way, people who don't have to attempt to keep her from launching off one of the pews, falling off of a kneeler, or crashing into the banister, and can therefore think she is just adorable? Am I the only one who thinks she is a pain in the ass?

You call this a happy family? Why do we have to have all these kids?*

* * *

Am I really that neurotic of a mother to notice all of these imperfections? Don't answer that one.

* * *

Can there be anything more touching than seeing an emerging young man in his Christmas finery, walking with dignity down the street, hands in pocket, keeping distance from the younger ones, establishing his fledgling maturity?

Can anything be cuter than a cadre of kindergartners singing and signing "Mary had a baby, oh Lord; Mary had a baby, oh my Lord; Mary had a baby, oh Lord; the people keep a-comin' and the train done gone!"

Can she look any more heartbreakingly lovely in her brand new glasses, my little Miss 20-20?

Is anything more important than trying, however imperfectly, to show up for your kids, and battle the stress, and rage against the commercial machine, and offer them the gift of Christmas, the gift of Christ, the gift of loving each other, however imperfectly, so that at the end of the evening, when one of them comes downstairs in tears, unable to describe the sadness, just overwhelmed and confused by the intensity of emotion he is feeling, you can set aside your own exhaustion and your own irritation at the stresses and curveballs that came your way today, and you can hold him and tell him that you know how he feels and that you've felt that way too, and it's because he has such a big, good heart that he feels that way and because the excitement of the holiday season can be just plain overwhelming? Because if you can do that, and then offer him his first taste of egg nog, you'll be able to send him to bed peacefully, and he will thank you and tell you he loves you, and in an instant, you will call this a happy family.

* * *
*with gratitude to George Bailey of Bedford Falls, NY

16 December 2009

"Just Give Me A Big Push!" and other things I am trying to ignore

Rainy afternoons are...interesting. The kids a gettin' a little stir crazy around here, and with soccer practice canceled, and screen time maxed out, and not much homework to do in these waning days before vacation, I'm hearing the words "I'm bored" a little more than I care to.

Not tonight though! They've discovered a new activity: they are sledding down the stairway. I am trying my level best to ignore the things I am hearing, such as "Cenzo, I just need you to give me one really big push!" and "Hey, are you laughing or crying?" and "We need more padding!" and "If we could just get this to be more slippery!"

There is total chaos in my stairwell. They've got the Brian Setzer band blasting from the boys' room and they are taking turns seeing who can catapault themselves down the stairs the fastest.

If they can manage to leave me out of it, they might get away with it for another 20 minutes.

One thing for sure: they better be damn glad their dad is not home, because there's no way in hell he'd be going for this activity. I, on the other hand, am worn down and weakened by the call of the internet: if they're staying away from me, and letting me blog, check email, facebook, and obsessively check my stats, then I pronounce it good.

All I can say is if I have to break away from this computer to take someone to the hospital, mama will NOT be happy. And if mama's not happy, ain't NOBODY gonna be happy. They better say a prayer as they careen down the stairs.

* * *

14 December 2009

Oh, They Crack Me Up

Kids do.

Today, the kids got their class pictures. These are different from when I was a kid. Gone are the days of lining up 30 squirmy kids on makeshift bleachers and trying to keep the kid third from the end from picking his nose during the shoot. Now the photographer takes the individual shots of each kid and the class picture consists of an 8.5 x 11 sheet with the individual pictures of each student, the teachers, and the principal. The children are arranged alphabetically, except that the one your child comes home with features your child larger than all the rest, front and center.

My daughter was showing another mom the class picture and said: "I'm the huge one." Yup, she thought all of her classmates got a HUGE picture of her, surrounded by little ones of everyone else. That child has zilch-o self-esteem issues. She's got self-esteem to spare. She's got loads of extra self-esteem just laying around in her bedroom, going to waste in a world filled with people who could surely use some. She thinks so highly of herself that even at knee high to a grasshopper, she seems to gaze down at the rest of us.

* * *

And today starts the Santa Sale at school, which has provided me with a blog post in the past and it appears I'll get at least one more this year. Today, Lola came out of school with a $1 bill, the change from the $5 bill she went to school with. A few minutes later, there she is with TWO $1 bills.

Me: "Lola, why do you have another dollar?"
Lola: "'Dave' gave it to me!"
Me: "Why did 'Dave' give you a dollar?"
Lola: "Because he didn't want it anymore."

I spied 'Dave' with his aunt across the yard, took the dollar from Lola and returned it to its rightful owner, who, upon being asked why he gave away his dollar, replied: "Because it was all wrinkly."

I told him he can give me all the wrinkly money he wants in the future. I told Lola to stay friends with him.

Oh, kids just crack me up.

* * *

10 December 2009

It's the Most Discombobulating Time of the Year

Things that seem impossible today: getting my daughter dressed...brushing my hair...finding socks...being peaceful...organizing my desk...finishing one damn cup of coffee...interacting with others without channeling my inner bitch...putting the laundry away...locating the mute button on my three year old...and preparing for Christmas.

Questions I am pondering today:

Is a muzzle an appropriate Christmas gift for a toddler? How about a straightjacket?

Can Santa bring me a martini? Can he come NOW?

Do I really need to get new tires and brakes right now, in December of all times of the year? If so, do you think the kids will be happy to find some Michelins and brake pads wrapped up under the tree on Christmas morn?

Where are my keys, my blue tooth, my cell phone, my nerves, and my tylenol?

If I abscond with the box of Trader Joe's Candy Cane Joe-Joe's, which will the children miss more: their mother or the cookies?

In the absence of matching socks, can I dress her in mis-matched socks, and in the absence of those, how about dirty socks, and in the absence of those, can I leave her here whilst I run errands in the freezing cold?

If I start driving right now, how far will I get by the Witching Hour?

* * *

08 December 2009

My Foodie

What do you want to serve your friends at your birthday party, Lola?

Lola: "STEAK!"!

* * *

The family reminisces: "Remember when we all went to the Exploratorium? Remember the shadow room? Remember the human brain?"

Lola: "Remember the steak?"

* * *

The Buddy Club performer: "So what are your favorite foods, kids?"
Kid #1: "Pesto pasta!"
Kid #2: "Pizza"

Lola: "Steak!" (with slightly maniacal look in her eye and big crazy grin)

* * *

She also loves: brussels sprouts...garlic, as in she snacks on whole cloves...broccoli stalks...salmon...cayenne pepper...spicy guacamole...spicy salsa...spicy ribs...paella. Her palette is truly amazing. She is headed for an exciting and varied eating life.

Just think: someday, she might be cooking all those wonderful foods for me! Now that's what I would call a great return on an investment -- here's hoping it pays off, preferably before I have no teeth and all she can do is wipe the dribble from my chin.

* * *

You know you have a big family when...

...you split the family into two cars for the ride home and both vehicles qualify for the car pool lane.

* * *

07 December 2009

Because I Can

I served brussel sprouts tonight.

This was received with a level of resistance that would impress most revolutionaries. I, however, am the Supreme Dictator, and the sprouts went down. Not before I uttered some interesting sentences, including:

"You cannot stand there with your mouth full of food! That's not how we roll! You have to swallow!"

"This is so good for you: learning to eat stuff you don't like! I'm so proud of you!"

"Not fair that she has two and you have three? You're right. I'll give her three."

They hate me. This gives me the glowing feeling of being sure I am doing something right.

* * *

And the new normal is...

On the way home from school today, the girls asked me if we could go to a local bakery. I said no, we weren't going to stop anywhere, we were going to go home and have a nice normal evening.

A few minutes later, I told them what we were going to have for dinner and I mentioned that maybe we would even sit down and eat at the table for once. (Our dining room table is rarely empty enough for all of us to sit together at the same time...too much laundry, books, school papers, etc.) Lola piped up: "I thought you said tonight was going to be normal."

Snide little thing.

* * *

Oh, and one kid threw up her brussel sprouts, so maybe that Supreme Dictator thing was a little premature. I'll have to refine my technique.

* * *

05 December 2009

I've Been To Hell, and There's a Big Mouse There

I just spent three hours at Chuck E. Cheese. I can't even quite describe the horror show I witnessed. It was hell. And it was just a normal day for the Mouse and his friends.

I can't help thinking that there is something deeply, deeply wrong about a culture that can produce such a place.

I need a quiet, dark room with carrots, water, and Judy's Breadsticks.

When -- or IF -- I recover, I might try exorcising the demons I brought home with me by writing about it. Or maybe I'll just let the whole day die away and never let its memory touch the light of day.

* * *

04 December 2009

For My Father

Tonight, we are engaging in the holiday family tradition of decorating our Christmas tree. This is such a nostalgic activity...it reminds me of when I was a kid, decorating the family tree surrounded by my mom, dad, sister and brother.

And tonight, dad, I just want you to know, I am not using hooks.


your daughter

* * *

03 December 2009

Christmas Lists...Morons...and Pee

Three vignettes from my day:

"Dear Santa, I want new siblings for Christmas. Ones that will not be mean to me. Love, Elizabeth."

I asked her what we will do with the old ones, and she replied, "We'll just have a whole bunch more kids!"

* * *

"Dear Dad, I'm sorry I was such a moron this morning. I love you.
Love, {name withheld to protect the guilty}"

* * *

As for the pee: all you parents of boys, let's talk about taking aim, shall we? Who among us has a boy-child that hits the target? I confront so much bodily fluid on a daily basis that I often feel like I'm in training for some high-level hazardous waste assignment. Between the daytime carelessness and the nighttime groggy-ness, my bathroom (of which I have ONE for a family of 7) tends to be a sea of pee. I go through many, many bottles of Simple Green in my Epic Pee Battles, and there is no end in sight.

We get our boys up at night to go to the bathroom. Let me just say that standing in the hallway in the dark (because standing in the bathroom doesn't give them enough privacy), trying to get a kid to wake up enough to relieve himself, and saying the nightly "please let him hit the water" prayer is taking its toll on me. The utter despair I feel upon hearing the pee hit the tile pretty much encapsulates my worst fears about being an ineffectual parent. Because once that stream starts, there's not a damn thing I can do to control its trajectory.

I had a nice chat with a friend today -- a true soldier, she is, raising FOUR BOYS between the ages of 12 and 5. We talked about pee. That's what we moms are reduced to, you know: talking about, and being interested in, strategies for handling bodily waste. (Actually, we talked about all kinds of strange and interesting things about family life, pee being just one of the scintillating topics...) She had a gem of a solution for boys with wayward aim: Upon entering a bathroom that young boys had used, upon observing that not only had they peed, but that apparently raising the toilet seat was too much effort, upon seeing the seat reserved for the peeing female doused in urine, she decreed: "If I see this again, you will sit on it so that you experience what I have to experience when you don't lift the seat."

Problem solved.

But here's the thing that gets me: I don't know of a single family with little boys that doesn't have unseemly amounts of urine on their bathroom floor, can't think of any boy-parents who don't spend inordinate amounts of time cleaning pee off of floors, tiles and toilets. And I've done a super scientific poll of a couple of my friends with boys and we all experience the same disgusting thing: boys pee many places, but rarely in the pot.

Which leads me to one of the great lessons of parenting. We absolutely HAVE TO talk to other parents so that we know that our own kids are not freakish mutants with no hope of ever becoming civilized. If we don't talk to our friends who have kids, we'll never know that most boys pee on the floor, most girls at some point shake their booties in peculiar ways, and most kids act like they've been offended beyond measure when asked to clean up.

So I have come to believe that the most essential bit of parenting advice is this: Do not parent in isolation. Talk to other parents and tell your stories. You'll feel so much better because you are bound to discover that your kid is not an anomaly and that what you are experiencing is being repeated behind the closed doors of most families in America, regardless of how together they might look when they are out in public.

So trust your instincts, do what you believe is right, and talk to other parents. That will get you through.

All of that from a conversation about pee!

* * *

02 December 2009

Something Not So Beautiful

The paella is beautiful.

So is the roaring fire in the fireplace, also made by my spouse.

What kind of woman yells at a man like that? My kind, unfortunately. Me? Not so beautiful today.

Good thing we all get second chances. And thirds, fourths, fifths, and seven times seventies.

* * *

Something Beautiful

This paella is beautiful, as is my spouse who made it.

* * *

01 December 2009


For your entertainment, here is a list of things I discovered around my house yesterday:

  • One milk-sogged kitchen towel, left in a drippy heap on my kitchen floor, after a child "cleaned up" the milk he spilled in the living room.

  • Two strawberries mashed into my nice black jacket.

  • Approximately 35 dead crickets, in their cricket house, which is a plastic case that sits on a shelf in my kitchen. Just purchased to feed our fire-bellied toads, but attacked and eliminated by hundreds of ants. Oh yeah, and I also discovered the ants.

  • An unidentifiable hard-but-still-sticky substance encrusted in my three year old's hair.

  • After getting the three year old out of the bathtub and getting her into her pajamas, I further discovered that in the time between rinsing the shampoo out of her hair and going to check dinner on the stove, the seven year old had dumped a large amount of shampoo on the three-year old's head.

  • Two sippy cups full of three-day old milk, under the toddler's bed.

  • Broccoli gone bad. "Sca-wee," according to the three-year old.

  • Parmesan cheese, in places parmesan cheese should not be.

  • That a clean room is like an engraved and hand delivered invitation to children to wreck havoc far and wide.

  • That just when I think I cannot take any more messes, I am proven wrong by the next mess that I must "take" with grace, patience, and a sense of humor.

Discoveries are overrated. I want a day in which I learn nothing, find nothing, discover nothing.

* * *

29 November 2009

My Favorite Gravy of Thanksgiving Weekend 2009

I spend a surprising amount of time thinking about the things I need to teach my kids. Ya' know, the big and little things that make a life, like how to do laundry, how to clean your ears, how the crusty bits of homemade mac-n-cheese are the best, and how to fold socks.

Today, I read a blog that I just adored about exactly this: the things you want and must teach your children well.

Read this now. You'll love it. You might even, as I did, learn something about vagisil that you did not know. You will likely find a new blog to follow as well.

Thanks Momo!

* * *

Love Sticks

Elizabeth (she's 5) called me in to her room last night in a panic: "I need another kiss, mama, because I accidentally wiped off the one you gave me!"

Lola (she's 7) reassured her: "That's OK, Elizabeth: love sticks!"

* * *

I gave them both about a hundred extra kisses anyway.

* * *

28 November 2009

Jumping on the Bohemian Bandwagon

This is viral on the internet, so you've probably already seen it. If not, sit back, get out your bell bottoms, and enjoy.

* * *

And that's how a girl gets to 28 posts in 28 days. Don't hate me because I'm a cheater.

* * *

Wherein I Share My Super Secret Apple Pie Recipe

That title might be a little misleading. There is nothing secret about this recipe whatsoever. I got it from an ancient Betty Crocker cookbook that used to be my mom’s (I think I stole it from her) and now it lives on my bookshelf all year long except when I make pie. The pages of this book are yellowed, frayed and ripped, and turning them requires delicacy and grace. This is where, once a year, I seek and find The Mystery of the Pie.

But then, pie isn’t much, is it? Just crust, fruit, and sugar. The only mystery to pie is making it yourself and the big secret is that making a pie is ridiculously easy. The hardest ingredient to find is the time, which, of course, is ridiculously difficult for most moms these days.

You can always do what I did this year: make your pie at 2 in the morning.

OK, on to the making part. The best part of making pie is making the crust. Many people think I am nutso for making homemade crust when there are perfectly nice ones to be had at the grocery store. But I prefer the homemade kind; they are flakier and yummier. Plus, if I didn’t make my own crust, the whole project would seem a bit too… simple. By simple, I mean plain rather than easy. I don’t make pie often, but when I do, I like it to be something of an event, and store bought crust does not an event make.

So. The Crust. I always make a double crust, a bottom and a top, as opposed to a woven lattice top. This recipe is for one 9-10 inch double crust pie.

2 cups flour
1 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup shortening
5 to 7 tablespoons of cold water

Sift together the flour and the salt. I do this by mixing it for a few minutes with a fork, fancy sifter that I am. My mom had a real sifter when I was a kid and I really liked turning the crank. I don’t have one, so I use a fork.

Add the shortening. I plop it all in the center and then use two forks to “cut” it into the dry flour/salt mixture. When it’s pretty well mixed, I use my hands to really mix and mush and smash and smush until I’ve got a bowl filled with stuff that looks kind of like large dough-colored peas. Lots of little pieces of crumbly dough.

Add the water, one tablespoon at a time. Add the first tablespoon to the edge of the dough and mix it in to that area with a fork. Move the damp dough a little to the side. Add the second tablespoon and do the same thing. I almost always use 7 tablespoons, sometimes even 8, before all of the dough is mixed with water. Once all the water has been added, use your hands to shape the dough into one big ball. Then divide that in half and create two smaller balls.

Spread tons of flour on your rolling surface and your rolling pin, and roll out the first ball of dough for the bottom of the pie pan. How big should you make it? Well, you gotta sorta judge the size of your pie plate. I used to roll it out and then set the pie plate on top. If the dough was about an inch or so bigger than the plate, I called it done. Little tip: use the rolling pin to pick up the flattened dough: drape the dough over the pin to lift it up. Lift it up, drape it into your pie dish and press it down flat all the way around the dish; don’t worry about the extra dough hanging over the sides. Roll out your second ball of dough and leave it on your rolling surface until your pie is filled with yummy goodness.

The Filling

A word about the apples you use. You have to make sure they are good pie apples, the kind that will not get too mushy when they cook. I used Fuji for my pie this year. If you are like me, then you’ll google “good apples for pies” every single time you make this pie, because you will forget what kind you used last time. In fact, Google should probably be one of the steps in this recipe. Also, I always add pears; they taste great and are the perfect consistency. Here are the ingredients:

5-6 apples
2-3 pears
1 cup sugar
2 tablespoons flour
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 dash of nutmeg
1 dash of salt (optional – I used to put it in, now I mostly leave it out.)
2 tablespoons of butter

Slice the apples and pears thinly. If they are too thick, they don’t fit as nicely in your pie plate. If ya’ wanna get really detailed, here’s what I do: I use an apple slicer to core the fruit and get 8 big slices from it. Then I slice each of those into three smaller slices. Then I cut those into three thirds each. That’s OCD level detail; chopping them willy-nilly will also do the trick. Oh, and I don’t bother peeling them. I like the peels in my pie.

Combine the sugar, flour and spices; mix with your fruit. Fill your waiting pie plate with this delish mixture. Chop up the butter and dot the top of the fruit with it. Go get your rolled-out crust from your rolling surface and put it over the entire pie. Take a knife and cut off the excess crust from both the bottom and top crusts.

Making it look pretty: I take a fork and press the tines all the way around the edge of the pie to make a nice lil’ pattern and seal the edges at the same time. Then I use a knife to make little air slots in the pie; you can make pretty designs and stuff at this point. Google it. I tried describing what I do, but it sounded ridiculous, so use your imagination or google it.

Last thing: sprinkle sugar on the top. Your pie will sparkle; how fun is that?

This is a good time to remember that you were supposed to preheat the oven. I usually curse here. Basically, you want to bake this puppy at 400 degrees for around 45-50 minutes, depending on your oven. Mine runs HOT, so I end up setting it at 350 degrees and baking it for about 35-40 minutes, and I still burn about a quarter of the edge of the pie. A little roughage along part of the edge is a small price to pay for pie perfection everywhere else. Hopefully your oven is more cooperative than mine and you won’t be paying that price at all.

EAT THE DARN THING ALREADY, WILL YA? After you let it cool for as long as your patience and your taste buds will wait. We eat this pie with vanilla ice cream, of course.

And that, my friends, is my pie.

And now, my friends, excuse me while I enjoy a little rush of domesticity.

* * *

To Ad or Not To Ad

I am trying to decide whether or not to join Blogher, or Adsense, or one of those types of networks and start posting ads on this site. I haven't so far, because I figure that my five or so faithful readers (a) wouldn't like it and (b) wouldn't really be a very effective target market for any advertisers.

Oh, and (c) because I'm lazy and haven't really bothered to investigate or think very much about this issue.

What are the pros and cons? Would I have more readers? Would the ads annoy people, including me?

So much to think about. I think I'll go have a piece of pie instead.

If you have any thoughts one way or the other, if you have ads on your own blog or not, please share your experiences.

Coming next: I will post my apple pie recipe. It's not rocket science people, it's sugar and apples. And pears.

* * *

27 November 2009

Post Thanksgiving Musings

Here's what I've been thinking about today. A brain dump, if you will.

  1. I hate that shopping is considered news.

  2. I love having leftovers in the house.

  3. I dread the Holidays.

  4. I love Christmas.

  5. Multi-tasking is overrated. I made an apple pie at 2 in the morning on Thanksgiving. It was bliss. I didn't have to divide my attention between the apples and the computer and the dirty diaper and the feeding of people and the cleaning up after them and the fighting and the whining and the questions and the explanations and the people I love. It was me and the apples. And the pears, because I always put pears in my apple pie. I was surprised by how enjoyable a task can be when it's the only task at hand and the only thing being expected of me at that moment.

I just might survive the Holidays this year if I can find more ways to monotask. I might even -- gasp -- enjoy myself!

So I hope everyone had a happy Thanksgiving yesterday; let's tackle December, shall we?

* * *

25 November 2009

In Between

Today, I went Thanksgiving grocery shopping with my oldest, who is 11-years old. He is such a great kid: sensitive, smart, articulate, kind. He spends his days with one foot in the world of a little kid and one foot in the world of a teenager. There are many ways in which he yearns to be older, to have more freedom and to experience life on his own. There are also many ways that he is happy to stay "little." He still plays imagination games all the time, watches G-rated movies, and likes to cuddle.

He knows the truth about Santa Claus, but is happy to pretend otherwise to help out his mom and dad. Sometimes he pretends so well that I have to wonder if the pretense is for his younger siblings' sake or his own.

Today while we were walking from one store to the next, we headed towards a crowd of teenagers hanging out and being goofballs. He immediately slowed down so that he could walk behind me and not be so close to mom. His posture changed, his pace changed, his entire self took on the cloak of a teenager. Once we passed the group and entered the store, my boy was back at my side, chatting about some silliness or other.

A few minutes later, walking again between stores, I was explaining something to him and using my hands as I talked. I put both of my hands out to make a point. He thought I was putting my hand out for him to take. And as natural as anything, he grabbed it, and we walked a little ways holding hands.

So there he is. Too cool to walk near me and little enough to want to hold my hand.

He is our first. He is our Great Experiment. He will always be the first to take us everywhere we need to go as parents and will bear the brunt of our learning curve. Like most of us, he has many fears; unlike many of us, he thrashes through them and gets up each morning ready to face what comes.

On this eve of Thanksgiving, I am thankful that God has given him so many words to tell us how he feels, such a big heart to feel for others, and so much courage to face the world. I will learn a lot from him, if I am patient enough to listen.

Now, if I could just get him to eat something other than sour dough bread for Thanksgiving dinner, I would trust that he will be just fine in the world.

* * *

24 November 2009

What Can Happen When a Parent is Tired

Take one tired daddy.

Add one creative 5-year old.

Mix in a handful of markers. Hope they are non-toxic.

And voila! Here is what you get:

The world--including daddy's feet--is her canvas.

23 November 2009


Three and five year olds running madly around the house, doing the lap from kitchen, to dining room, to living room, to hallway, to kitchen. Five year old, screaming at the top of her lungs:


* * *

22 November 2009

My Brain is Mush, My Girls are Awesome

Ten soccer games in two days will do that to a brain.

Three of my kids were each in a soccer tourney this weekend, which meant the following:

9:00am Monarchs Game
9:00am Rockets Game
9:00am Dolphins Game

Noon Monarchs Game
Noon Rockets Game
1:00 Rockets End-of-Season Party
1:30 Dolphins Game

9:00am Rockets Game
10:00am Monarchs Game
10:30am Dolphins Game
3:00pm Dolphins Game

The soccer was great, the teams are amazing, the other families are so much fun to be with, but the real trophy of the weekend goes to my 3 and 5 year old girls, for being such troopers about being hauled from one game to the next to the next and getting into a minimum of trouble the entire weekend. They are total rock stars.

Some day, it will be their turn. For now, they know how to party in the park, charm the socks off of people, scam the snack mom for hand outs, jump up and down to keep warm in the frigid wind, make a game out of throwing bark all over the place, and cheer for their older siblings. Hats off to you, Tallulah and Elizabeth.

* * *

20 November 2009

The Latest in a Long List of Things I Do Not Understand

Am I the only person who is completely baffled by the Snuggie?

I cannot believe these things are catching on, that anyone would actually wear one. I saw a commercial the other night that excitedly proclaimed that the Snuggie is now available in fashionable patterns. Aside from the fact that Snuggie commercials look like they're spoofs of real commercials, the patterns featured were hideous, as in ugly drapery hideous. But then, I would imagine it's difficult to make any pattern look good when there is so MUCH of it to see.

Understand that I hate being cold. My poor husband has to hear me bitch and complain about being cold for the entire winter. I think I utter the words "I hate being cold!" about 53,000 times each year. I am always tucking blankets around my ankles and shoulders, and searching for the warmest socks, and going to bed wearing a hat. I put a high value on being warm and comfortable.

Even with all of that, I just can't get my brain around the Snuggie. A blanket you can wear belongs in the category of "Just Because You Can Do It Doesn't Mean It's A Good Idea." There are many things possible in this great big mixed up world of ours, but possible does not mean advisable. Dogs can lick their backsides, but does anyone really think they should?

So maybe the Snuggie doesn't rise to that level, but still: just because you can drape your entire body in a great big thick curtain with sleeves, doesn't mean you won't look like a complete fool while doing so.

The Snuggie website promotes the many ways one can use the Snuggie, such as for night time pub crawls. Can you picture this? Out with friends for a night of drinking wearing...a snuggie? Nothing says fun like wearing a comforter!

The site also has a picture of a bunch of people sitting in the stands at a football game all cozy in their snuggies. One of them is a young guy, who is probably thinking to himself, "I know you gotta put up with a lotta shit to make it in show business but if this ad kills my career, I'm gonna have the stupid Snuggie to thank for the next 30 years I spend flipping burgers." You know he wouldn't be caught dead wearing one of those things if someone wasn't paying him to. Plus, and maybe it's just me, more than one person wearing a Snuggie looks a little Orwellian, like some kind of strange mind-control experiment. Like this:

Don't they sort of look like mouthpieces for the state? Then again, if it's on the Today Show, then the Snuggie truly has arrived in our culture: it's here to stay apparently.

The most baffling part? More than 4 million sold in just three months. 4 million people who don't mind looking completely and utterly ridiculous? I am stunned.

But the absolute saddest part of this whole post is that I just spent 30 minutes of my life ranting about the Snuggie instead of doing laundry, washing dishes, feeding children, reading to the children, planning for Christmas, ending world hunger or sleeping under a nice, warm, normal blanket.

So somebody, please, explain the Snuggie to me.

* * *`

In the Interest of Fairness

One of my posts a few days ago featured an email that has been making the rounds about how men could never survive if they had to do all the things we moms have to do on a daily basis. Well, apparently, it's not so easy to be a man either! Who would have thunk it???

One guy who saw that post responded by sending my dad (who had directed him to this blog) the following list:

How to make a woman happy

It's not difficult to make a woman happy. A man only needs to be:

1. a friend
2. a companion
3. a lover
4. a brother
5. a father
6. a master
7. a chef
8. an electrician
9. a carpenter
10. a plumber
11. a mechanic
12. a decorator
13. a stylist
14. a sexologist
15. a gynecologist
16. a psychologist
17. a pest exterminator
18. a psychiatrist
19. a healer
20. a good listener
21. an organizer
22. a good father
23. very clean
24. sympathetic
25. athletic
26. warm
27. attentive
28. gallant
29. intelligent
30. funny
31. creative
32. tender
33. strong
34. understanding
35. tolerant
36. prudent
37. ambitious
38. capable
39. courageous
40. determined
41. true
42. dependable
43. passionate
44. compassionate


45. give her compliments regularly
46. love shopping
47. be honest
48. be very rich
49. not stress her out
50. not look at other girls


51. give her lots of attention, but expect little yourself
52. give her lots of time, especially time for herself
53. give her lots of space, never worrying about where she goes


54. Never to forget:
* birthdays
* anniversaries
* arrangements she makes


1. Show up naked.
2. Bring Booze.

* * *

OK, point taken. Perhaps we expect a lot from men; but that's only because we know they can deliver, right? Right? Hello? Pick yourself up off the floor, stop laughing, and leave me a comment!

* * *

You Know You Are an NPR Family When...

...your 5-year old suddenly asks, after two months of being in school instead of with mom during the daytime hours: "Mom! We never hear Terry Gross talk anymore! Why???"

* * *

17 November 2009

Working With--Yes, that tiara looks great--My Kids Underfoot

Dear Carol,

Thanks for your--no, you can't have a cookie!--email. Rick would love to--yes, you can have 15 minutes of computer time if you are finished with your homework.--meet with you about your--no, 5X9 does not equal 50.--garden.

Oh, hang it all.

I would
Tallulah, stop spitting at Elizabeth.
really love to
I'm sorry you got scratched up in the thorny bushes, I'm sure that hurt.
go for two minutes in
Tallulah! Stop! You will go in another time-out if you cannot leave her alone!
a row without
No, you cannot have a cookie!"
being interrupted.
Am I the only one who can hear that infernal timer going off?!?!?!?!

It just might be
You can have a turn after her.
physically impossible for
I'm sorry honey, your time is up. No, you don't get extra computer time. They don't get extra time either. They get the same amount of time. No, you don't get extra time. Please unclench your fists from around my arms and remove your stomping, crying, tantruming self from my presence before I visit sellyourkid.com and post a picture of your beautiful face with the headline: I'll pay YOU to take her off my hands!"
them to leave me alone.

Sorry, Carol. I couldn't
Are you going to ask me the right answer to every single one of your 20 math problems as you do them? I would prefer you let me check them all at the end.
finish the email I started to you.
Fine, I will unlock the garden door. Just stop screaming.
If we don't respond, and you get tired of waiting,
Don't go outside without shoes! No, I don't know where your damn shoes are!
and you find someone else to do your project, and we all end up on the street because my children
No, you can't have any candy.
won't shut their pie holes long enough for me to do any work,
Tallulah, stop pushing him! And if you all can't get along, you will go to bed and NO ONE will watch the Dancing with the Stars Results Show tonight!
please toss some money in my sons' upturned baseball caps when you pass us
on the street.

Either that, or come and visit me in the looney bin. I should be ready for visitors after about 67 days of total silence.

* * *

16 November 2009

NaBloPoMo Failure, Sleep Deprivation Chronicles, and Pitfalls of Having a Large Family

First the failure: I couldn't do it. Couldn't do 30 posts in 30 days. Between Friday and Monday, we had two soccer games, one basketball game, two end of season soccer parties, Mass (yes, we really made it!), and one large work day for Rick, helping to plant the new El Cerrito Community Center garden. I guess I just couldn't keep up with all of that, feeding the family, doing the laundry, AND blogging. Very sad, very disappointing. Perhaps I will sneak back in through the back door, and post multiple times in a day in order to get to November 30th and have a (30) next to the month. We shall see. For now, I will retreat and promise to do better next time...if I ever agree to such foolishness again.

* * *

Second, the sleep deprivation: I was just leaving a phone message for someone, and I couldn't remember my cell phone number. I felt like an idiot. The nice lady taking the message thought I was looney. How embarrassing. I need some sleep, BAD.

* * *

Third, the pitfall: This morning I was on the freeway in late rush hour traffic, and was absolutely irritated that I couldn't be in the carpool lane. I am so used to automatically qualifying for the HOV lane, given that I always travel with a tribe, that I was incredulous this morning when I was barred from entering the diamond lane with only my little monkey LuLu in the car with me. It was 9:53; HOV time ends at 10:00. It was all I could do to stay in the slow lanes to the right. I felt entitled to that faster lane, and quite resentful that I couldn't be there. I have, in the past, speculated that I will get a ticket for violating the carpool lane rules at some point in my life because merging on over to the left is an automatic process for me.

I did give in at 9:57. So there, CHP, I gotcha!

* * *

13 November 2009

The Book is Out!

I got the coolest birthday present from my brother today. He has self-published a book of his comics, from his syndicated strip It's All About You, and I got a copy from him in the mail today. THANK YOU TONY! I love it, love it, love it.

I have a link over there at the right that goes to his daily strip, so perhaps you have clicked on that and seen his funny stuff. Now YOU TOO can own the book.

Corrected on 11/17/09, to include HOW TO BUY THE BOOK! Click here to buy the It's All About You Book, the perfect Christmas present for anyone on your list who has a sense of humor. Let's hope, for your sake, that that's most of the people on your list.

Congrats, Tony. I hope you sell gobs of books and get famous. I want to see IAAY characters on mugs!

Everyone else, visit the link above to check out his comic strip.

* * *

12 November 2009

I Hate Yellow Day

Argh! It's freaking Yellow Day! That totally sucks.

Why the antipathy towards the color of the sun?

Because last night, in preparation for "free dress" day at the kids' school, I asked every single one of my school-going offspring what they wanted to wear to school instead of a uniform and they all brought me their choices, and I did the freaking' laundry, down to underwear and socks and was totally prepared for the morning and went to bed under the illusion of being ready, for once. THEN, at 5am this morning, my brain finally decided to WORK for one damn time, and reminded me that when it's free dress day, it's a COLOR DAY for Kindergarten, and I had forgotten that and didn't check the Kindergarten calendar and was therefore most definitely NOT prepared.

And now, it's Yellow Day. WE DON'T HAVE YELLOW! At least not clean yellow.

Just once, I would like a morning with no surprises. Just once, when I go to the effort to be prepared in advance, I would like my brain to cooperate and remember things in a timely fashion. Just once, I would like to show up at school and NOT feel like a careening clown car, screeching up to the curb with ungodly sounds emanating from the interior and resentful children pouring out with messy hair and frayed pant legs and forgotten lunches and unfinished homework and someone just remembering at that moment that if he doesn't bring in his library book TODAY the entire class gets to throw spit wads at him and his life will be ruined.

I hate Yellow Day.

I'm trying, Ringo; I'm trying real hard to be a shepard. That's not working out so well for me.

* * *

Edited to add a follow-up:

The Kindergartner arrived in yellow, thanks to a Sponge Bob PJ top, loaned to her from her older sister. And I got to watch my three year old march across the school yard with a tootsie roll wrapper stuck to her butt.

* * *

11 November 2009

I'm Pretty Sure This is Considered Cheating, but I'm Proceeding Anyway

For my 11th post in as many days, I am going to steal shamelessly, because I got a very funny email forwarded to me today. I did a bit of searching around the net to see if I could find someone to credit for this bit of genius...no luck. So whoever you are, hats off to you!

Enjoy some funniness, people.

* * *


Six married men will be dropped on an island with one car and 4 kids each for six weeks.

Each kid will play two sports and either take music or dance classes.

Each child will need a wrapped birthday gift for 2 parties during the six weeks, to which the men will r.s.v.p., drop off and pick up.

There is no fast food.

Each man must take care of his 4 kids, keep his assigned house clean, correct all homework, complete science projects, cook, do laundry, and pay a list of "pretend" bills with not enough money.

Each man will have to make an Indian hut model with six toothpicks, a tortilla, and one marker & get a 4 year old to eat a serving of peas.

One pet will be distributed to each man and he will be solely responsible for daily feedings and exercise, waste removal, grooming, and at least two veterinary appointments.

Each man must also take each child to a doctor's appointment, a dentist appointment, and an appointment for a haircut. He must also make cookies or cupcakes for a social function and attend a teacher conference.

Each man will be responsible for decorating his own assigned house, planting flowers outside and keep it presentable at all times.

The men will only have access to television when the kids are asleep and all chores are done. There is only one TV between them.

The men must shave their legs, wear makeup daily, which they will apply themselves either while driving or making four lunches. They must adorn themselves with jewelry, wear uncomfortable yet stylish shoes, keep their nails polished, and hair and eyebrows groomed.

During one of the six weeks, they will have to endure severe stomach cramps, back aches, skin breakouts, and have extreme unexplained mood swings but never once complain or slow down from their duties.

They must attend weekly PTA meetings, church, and find time at least once to spend the afternoon at the park or a similar setting. He will happily play board games, Legos, Barbies, Play Doh, as well as color and read stories whenever the children ask.

During the day the t.v. may only be tuned to Nickelodeon and he will be responsible for monitoring the appropriate amount of t.v. watching per child.

He will need to pray with the children each night, bathe them, dress them, brush their teeth and comb their hair each morning by 7:00.

A test will be given a the end of the six weeks, and each father will be required to know all of the following information: each child's birthday, height, weight, shoe size, clothes size, doctor's name and phone number. Also each child's favorite color, favorite toy, best friend's name and phone number, favorite snack, favorite story, favorite drink, biggest fear and what they want to be when they grow up.

They must clean up after their sick children at 3:00 a.m. and then spend the remainder of the day tending to that child and waiting on them hand and foot until they are better. They will be responsible, during that time, to have the appropriate medication on hand and keep up dosages at the correct time intervals.

The kids vote them off the island based on performance.

The last man wins ONLY if... he still has enough energy to be intimate with his spouse at a moments notice.

If the last man does win, he can play the game over and over and over again for the next 18-25 years... eventually earning the right to be called MOTHER!

* * *

10 November 2009

To Yell or Not To Yell

30 posts in 30 days...or as my husband calls it: An Invitation to Mediocrity.

Boy, do I feel myself accepting that invitation.

In an attempt to stave off mediocrity, let's wade into a parenting issue, shall we?

Here's the question: "Is it OK to yell at your kids?" This is a question posed today by a local parenting blog. It quotes some crazy statistic that says that 88% of the parents questioned admitted to yelling at their kids sometime in the past year.

Only 88%? Seems a little low to me.

I don't know a single parent (or a married one, for that matter) who does not yell at their children. And I live near Berkeley, the granola-eating, consciousness-raising, teach-your-kids-to-express-their-feelings, space-for-everyone-at-the-table center of the universe!

Face it, we ALL yell at the kids. Sometimes we regret it, because we should; sometimes we don't regret it, because the situation called for it.

Neither do I know a single parent that doesn't worry about the yelling, because of course we do. We worry that we are doing long term damage to them, that we are creating monsters who will yell at their own children because they learned how from us.

Just today, I heard my oldest yelling at his siblings with the same tone, inflection, and even words that his parents have used when yelling at him.

That's not good, but it is real. People get mad. People yell. Maybe, too, people learn how to be angry, how to let it out, and how to apologize if they've crossed a line.

I've told my kids from an early age that it's OK for them to get and be angry. I'd rather hear them lash out than have them keep it all inside.

Yeah, this could be a big rationalization of my own habit of yelling too much. But rest assured, I also worry too much and I also work really hard every day at not yelling.

Putting parents under a microscope for yelling is dangerous. Telling parents not to yell because they will irrevocably damage their children will set them up for failure and make them feel like terrible parents.

Everyone yells. Are we all terrible?

We're all doing our best, for cryin' out loud.

* * *

09 November 2009

Why I Don't Need Trendy Clothing Stores

Thanks to mom and dad for the classic, perfect-for-me birthday card. (And for the New Yorker subscription renewal that came with it.)

* * *

cartoon credit: Dave Coverly

* * *

08 November 2009

I am not a happier Californian.

Chase Bank took over WaMu, and screwed up my life.

We own a small business; I go to the bank frequently. We've also got the five small children; they come with me everywhere.

So the kids are quite familiar with the refrain: "I have to stop at the bank," and they moan and groan, but WaMu used to be an easy place to stop with the kids. So many things have changed since Chase took over that what used to be an easy errand now amounts to a trip to hell. Here are the stupid things Chase has done that make my day more difficult:

  • Took out the kid area of my local branch, which had books, toys, a kids' table and chairs set, and a couple of small video games. Replaced it with (yawn) a boring chair.

  • Removed their deposit drop box -- so now I have to actually stand in line.

  • Removed the Express Line -- so now I have to stand in a longer line.

  • Reduced the amount of time the Business Line is open -- so I can't rely on being able to use this line anymore either.

Other things about Chase Bank that I hate:

(1) They have a new policy where they hold all non-Chase bank deposits until the next banking day. Annoying. For a small business like ours, this just is another hassle we don't need.

(2) The other night I went online and transferred money into my home account, knowing that I needed to in order to cover some checks and debit card expenses that were going to clear. Used to be, with WaMu, I could do this fairly late into the evening and the money (MY money, going from one Chase account to another Chase account) would go in immediately. I've done this many times with WaMu, and it did not occur to me that this would change with Chase. Well, change it did; the money didn't transfer until the next day, and FIVE of my checks/debits hit my account, and Chase assessed me FIVE $33 overdraft charges.

I complained. I got the following response: "In response to your inquiry, I have absorbed the fees assessed to your account in the amount of $70.00 as a one time courtesy. Your account will not be eligible for another courtesy until after 11/06/2010."

This makes it sound like Chase is some benevelont force granting me a merciful kindness, and I better not be insolent enough to ask for something again for a good long time. I feel like Oliver Twist.

(3) I sent a request for a check number, since my bank statement for some reason shows several checks with the same number: 99. I've noticed this for awhile, with WaMu too, and assumed there was some system glitch responsible. So now, I need a check number from a check that cleared in June of 2009. The online system doesn't go back farther than 90 days and I can't get the number from my bank statement. And Chase wants to charge me $5 to give it to me. MY check. MY account. MY information. I decided I don't need the check number that badly.

So it seems that I now have a Fee For Everything Bank.

Since taking over WaMu, Chase has launched a billboard campaign here in California. One of their local signs says: "Longer hours. More locations. Happier Californians."

You know what Chase? The hours at my bank haven't changed...I don't see more branches...and I am definitely not a happier Californian since your arrival in my life.

* * *

07 November 2009

Remember Her?

Note: I originally wrote this post back in April, but never posted it. Now, with this NaBloPoMo craziness, I'm pulling it out of its holding pattern. The time references don't make sense; everything else does.

I received one of the greatest gifts on Friday: a visit with an old friend I have not seen in over 10 years. It was truly fantastic to see her, and it's had me thinking about what happens over time.

Kathy and I went to high school together, and there are few people in my life that I've ever had as much fun with or shared as much of myself with. She was intelligent, funny, sweet, and slightly geeky (sorry kath!), and I was at least two of those things as well, and we hit it off. We weren't in the "party crowd" but we sure enjoyed our wine and 7-up mixers, served on multi-colored square-patterned carpet of her older brothers' room (who was away at college) because his room was detached from the house and we had more freedom out there. We were tipsy to the Beatles and the English Beat and the Rolling Stones. We spent lots and lots of weekends together, sleepovers at each others' houses. We grew up together. Few friends have ever known me as well as Kathy did.

We stayed in close touch during the first few years of college; I even flew out to Virginia to visit her at the College of William and Mary (I told you she was smart!). We shared long letters back and forth between our dorms, as we both adjusted to college life, to growing up and away from our families. I was particularly miserable in my first year away, and she was a rock of support for me in the hardest year of my life.

Somewhere along the line, we drifted. Unlike other friendships that drift because people lose that sense of the bond they once shared, I think Kathy and I drifted only because we both got busy. I have never forgotten the bond we had, never felt it lessen, but we still somehow lost the "habit of being" good friends. We attended each others' weddings, of course. But then we drifted even further away.

And then, some genius person came up with this crazy Facebook thing!

And we found each other once more. Just in time for her to be one of the few people I spoke to on the phone when my dad was recently in a terrible accident. She responded to a facebook post about my dad (posted by someone else) and then sent me an email with her phone number, and I called her. Hadn't talked in years and it was like we talked just yesterday, and I was telling my good friend about my idiot father riding his idiot bicycle and getting slammed into by an idiot truck driver. (Life is generous that way: plenty of idiocy to go around.)

Kathy brought me back to who I was as a teen and young adult. I liked that person. She was funny, quirky, independent, and bound for greatness. She had no clue that "greatness" meant raising five people, but for now, this is where whatever greatness I have resides. But Kathy reminded me of the joy we experienced, the pure, giggly fun of two smart teenage girls who were loved by their parents and had just enough freedom to get in very, very little trouble, enough to feel like we were getting away with something.

Remember her? Remember me? Remember us? Friendships like that raise us, as sure as our parents do. Thank you Kathy, for helping me become the person I am today, and thank you for the "meet and greet" at Noah's bagels that reminded me of where I have come from.

So all you Facebook skeptics out there: join. If only for that one person you'll find who will make your day and take you back to a place you'll love to visit. Facebook is weird, but it brought my Kathy back to me. You'll find your Kathy too, and you'll be so glad you did.

* * *

06 November 2009

Life With Lullah

The other day, my three year old told me that I am "smokin' hot."

Yesterday, I asked her what she wants to be when she grows up, and she said "Hannah Montana."

Today at a restaurant, every time I turned around, she was doing her "Pink Panther" walk, wherein she imitates Steve Martin strutting around New York City.

Tonight on the way home, she shrieked for at least three miles: "Get off this stupid street, you dummy!" We were on the freeway. Apparently, she doesn't like freeways.

I am trying to potty train her. She is ready. She often wakes up in the morning and from her naps dry -- a good sign. She can tell me when she has to pee. She can run around dry, in underwear, for 2, 3, 4 hours. She can sit on the potty when she has to go. But she WILL NOT PEE IN THE POT. Given our busy lives, I have not had time to just sit with her until she goes. Inevitably, she tells me she has to go pee about 30 minutes before we need to be somewhere...and then spends the next 25 minutes messing with me, sitting and not peeing. This makes her giggle with delight. Then we have to leave.

I like to sing along to music in the car; she doesn't like it when I do this. So...when I start to sing, she starts to scream. My own little 3-year old dictator will scream and yell and fling her toddler vitriole at me until I stop. Sometimes she keeps going until I actually turn the music off.

She wants to be held most of the time, too. Except when she's careening around the house like a tasmanian devil, perhaps trying to chip one of her teeth for the third time in her young life. (She has already chipped her two front top teeth, in separate incidents. They are nice and symmetrically chipped: she has a neat little triangle shape right in front of her smile.)

When not careening around, she is either hiding from me so she can eat candy or she is badgering me with "Uppie, uppie, uppie, uppie, uppie!" (Pick me up!) I know she's had it for the day when she says to me: "I wanna sweep in yo' ahms." So sweet. But her timing sucks, because I'm usually making dinner at this point.

She's a pistol. I love her.

And in other news, you must listen to this gem of a story from NPR this morning. Talk about persistence! One wonders where the line between perseverance and insanity is, but there's no arguing with the fact that this lady finally achieved her goal. Good for her.

* * *

05 November 2009

Book Circuit, Here I Come

Dear Mom and Dad,

Well, I'm writing with some good news! I have finally figured out what I want to be when I grow up. I know, I know, it took me awhile. But here I am, about to turn 41, and I finally know what I want to be: a writer. More specifically, a published memoir author.

I have noticed, on the NPR interview circuit, that all of today's most interesting books are memoirs, so I am going to write one.

This is where you come in. See, I have noticed that most of these memoir author people have some pretty intense family stuff to write about, wacky parents and bumpy childhoods, drugs, alcohol, mental disorders, etc. So I need you to give me a list of all the stuff you've kept from me over the years, all the really sordid details of our family's lore. Feel free to embellish.

Perhaps you could use some "prompts" or ideas. Think of these categories: Violence...substance abuse...craziness...scandals...shameful events...big family secrets, etc.

Mary Karr, for example, wrote about the night her mother threatened to kill her and her sister with a butcher knife. Now that stuff makes for some good memoir, don't you think? I'm looking for a real attention grabber like that, something Terry Gross can delve into when I am a guest of Fresh Air after my book comes out.

I am hoping to really make it big with this book -- and maybe several sequels -- so I encourage you to think hard about what you can dredge up from the past for me to use.

I am so happy to have finally discovered my true calling. I am going to work hard to make you proud while also portraying you in such a way that I will sell lots of books. It will be a fine line to walk, so I'd just like you to know that whatever I write, I write with purpose. I will not use something just for its sensational value; I will only use what will get me published, I promise.

Hope you are well.


your daughter

ps. Until I get that big advance towards my book, can you send me some cash? I'd really appreciate it.

* * *

04 November 2009

Another Halloween. . .

. . .has come and gone.

I try to love Halloween, really I do, but it's hard. As in "I'm tryin' Ringo. I'm tryin' real hard." (Name that movie!)

I like the idea of dressing up and I like helping my kids assemble costumes. But I'm a dreadful procrastinator, and I'm usually stressed out about some key element of a costume right down to the last minute. I hate that.

This year, the pirate was easy and fun and ready ahead of time. Ditto for Cleopatra. The monkey, thanks to my extended village, turned out to be extremely easy, if a little down to the wire. The Grim Reaper -- easy...but I couldn't let go of the nagging voice in my head that kept saying: "Really? That's what you want to be? You can't think of something more fun? And less...deathly?"

I know, I know, 9-year old boys like that stuff. I'm not a 9-year old boy, though. I think I was sufficiently supportive of his choice that he did not suffer any ill effects from a disapproving mother, so no worries there. He did add his own creative flare; when the mask we found for him ended up featuring blue horns, he changed the name of his costume to The Blue Horned Reaper. Cool.

But Michael Jackson had me in knots right up to the last minute. Most of the costume was easy to find, in our own closets or at the local thrift store. But everyone was out of the white sequined glove in kids' sizes, and the adult size was huge. I tried a last minute home-made solution, which was utterly pathetic.

So then, with the school parade starting at 12:30, I found myself at the Party Store at 11:45, fighting the urge to kiss the employee when she came up with one huge MJ glove. From there, it was dash to school, hand off the glove, fit it to the kid's hand with a rubber band and a couple of safety pins, collapse in relief that everything worked out. All good. Mother nearly dead.

The other reason I hate Halloween is that my kids go bananas. That's a lot of bananas. Everything about Halloween is just a little too hyped up and intense for me. I'm a simple girl, I like simple things, and the rigamarole of these Uber-Events gets me down.

All that said, we actually had a great time trick-or-treating with friends, and they made the evening really fun for me and for my kids. I didn't even need a flask!

Here they are from youngest to oldest:

The Little Monkey


The Pirate Anne Bonny

The Blue Horned Reaper

(A photo resistant) Michael Jackson

Close the history books on this one. Bring on the Holidays.

* * *

03 November 2009

I Miss My Pillow

I read a short article in the New York Times today about sleep deprivation. Nothing new, just depressing. Here's a quote:

In a study at the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research in 2003...scientists examined the cognitive effects of a week of poor sleep, followed by three days of sleeping at least eight hours a night. The scientists found that the "recovery" sleep did not fully reverse declines in performance on a test of reaction times and other psychomotor tasks, especially for subjects who had been forced to sleep only three or five hours a night.

Read the article here.

This is bad news for someone who routinely gets about 5 hours of sleep at night, often less, sometimes a little more. Rarely do I ever get more than 7 hours of sleep. Rarely do I sleep without interruption. My kids do not keep my up for long periods of time at night anymore, but they do wake me up to crawl into bed beside me. Or someone is coughing. Or someone wants a drink of water. Or someone is snoring like a crazed warthog. Or life has my brain cartwheeling and somersaulting and hoola-hooping.

Sleep has been elusive for such a long time that I have utterly forgotten what it feels like to be well-rested. My baseline is sleep-deprivation. I don't remember not feeling groggy. This is just not good.

I wonder just how many nights in a row of enough sleep (at least 8 hours) it will take for me to catch up, for "the cognitive and physiological consequences of poor sleep to wear off." However many it might take, those nights are not in my immediate future.

I watched my three-year old asleep in her car seat today. She was yelling her head off at an intersection near our school, and by the time we got to the school, she was OUT. I was dripping green with envy. I wanted to be her. She stayed asleep for two hours, four older siblings climbing over her repeatedly, driving to and fro with mom on several errands, with the very essence of peace lying across her face like a baby blanket. Sleep, like youth, is wasted on the young.

How much sleep are you getting these days?

* * *

02 November 2009

Simple, Right?

So all I have to do right now is this:
  • Deal with a pair of poopy underwear, and the body wearing them.
  • Help 7-year old with daily homework first, then project due tomorrow.
  • Make dinner: healthy, delicious, for seven people.
  • Get the 11-year old to take out the piles and piles of recycling that have been waiting for the empty bin.
  • Supervise homework for resistant 9- and 11-year olds.
  • Staighten up living room -- so people can sit down.
  • Straighten up dining toom -- so people can eat and do homework.
  • Find some clean utensils.
  • Give 3-year old a bath. If nothing else happens, this better.
  • Look at a couple of projects that people will actually be paying me for.
  • Prepare end of October paperwork for various business and home related projects.
  • Stay cheerful, hopeful, patient, and POSITIVE! After all, I'm creating people here, right?

In other words, all I really need are three more sets of hands, arms like ElastiGirl, ten times the energy I currently have, a personal chef, fewer children, and a wife.

After that, I'm all set!

* * *

01 November 2009


It's my birthday this month. And my kids, who by the way are the most excellent offspring on the planet, decided to start early and celebrate from Day One of November. I think they had some encouragement from daddy.

I went to the grocery store and came home to my first gift. Grapes and flowers, harvested from our very own garden. Sweet, sweet.

I am loved. Life is good.

For a practiced complainer, glass-is-half-empty kind of a person like myself, this is saying something.

Thank you children and husband.

* * *

28 October 2009

Post Pediatrician Ramblings

I took some kids to the doctor today. One had a well-visit. Three had to get flu shots. One had to be checked for wheezing, a follow-up to a visit two weeks ago. That's a lot of stuff, right? Well, that's nothing compared to the to-do list I left with. Check this out:

-- Get eye exam for one kid. (Poor thing bombed her in-office eye exam...just like her momma!)
-- Get chest xray for one kid.
-- Get KUB xray for one kid.
-- Fill prescription -- two different meds -- for one kid
-- Get over the counter meds for one kid.
-- Bring one back in a month.

In the next 5 weeks, four of my kids will have their regular well-visits. Some people think of November and December as the Holiday Season. I think of those months as "Time to Reconnect with My Pediatrician Season." Which is nice, because I have a wonderful pediatrician, and love chatting with her. How many of you are facebook friends with your pediatrician? See, she's just that awesome. In fact, she's so awesome that when she moved her practice to a town 25 minutes away from us, we stayed with her; we make that drive because we can't imagine anyone else caring for our kids. With gas prices as high as they are, this means that you have to be pretty sick to warrant a trip to the doctor's office at my house.

So by the time I picked them up at school, got them all in and out of the doctor's office, got them all fed (I heart In-n-Out), stopped briefly at home to get them changed into soccer gear, got them to their practice field, raced to pick up the little one from daycare, swung by the bank to make a deposit that reaaaaallllly needed to go in today, stopped by the pharmacy to drop off the prescription, I had been in my car for over four hours. Thank you Bay Bridge malfunction for making the roads ridiculous today.

In case you are wondering, if you spend 4+ hours in a car with rambunctious children and too many containers of soda/coffee, here are a few things that might happen to you:

Your 7-year old girl might spill her root beer on your 9 year old son's absolute favorite drawing, the one he did of a monkey in a school desk, raising his hand and saying: "Would you mind repeating everything you said after 'LISTEN CAREFULLY'?" And he might respond with a howl filled with so much despair that the flowers on the side of the road will wilt.

Your 5-year old might dump her french fries on the floor with just the right timing so that the 9 and 11 year old boys will smush them into the carpet when they climb over the backpacks in a headlong effort to get into the back seat.

Your 5-year old might kick your coffee cup while attempting to hightail it out of the front seat, where she is not supposed to be because "I have a cup of coffee there and don't spill it!" The coffee could get all over the diaper bag and all over the Kindergartner's homework assignment.

Your 3 year old might flick a straw full of Dr. Pepper in your face as you are trying to unbuckle her...which means you might walk around the house for 5 or 10 minutes with Dr. Pepper speckles all over your glasses before you manage to clean them.

You might notice, after getting rid of three of them at the soccer field, that a few more of them also spilled their fries in the back seat.

You might yell a lot at your offspring. You might hear yourself saying quite a few things you thought you'd never say, like "You never learn, you never ever learn!" because you've heard that one before, in your own childhood, and could have sworn you were immune from such nonsense.

You might arrive home with no plan for dinner, but an acute awareness of where exactly in the fridge is the last bottle of Pipeline Porter made with 100% Hawaiian Kona Coffee.

Put a fork in me: I'm done.

* * *

26 October 2009

Hook and Eye

Not very many people use hook and eye latches anymore. They're a bit outdated, I suppose. But there are two in my mom and dad's house, and I love them.

Lest you think I have some strange attachment to bits of metal, let me tell you the story of how they came to be on the doors of the two bathrooms in my childhood home, and then you will know why I love them.

* * *

My mom and dad hosted my wedding reception in their backyard. It was a gorgeous June day. Early that morning, the preparations began, with family, friends and workers carting tables and chairs, spreading linens, and readying the BBQ. It was a lively, crowded scene.

Two of our guests, our friends Margaret and Lola, arrived to dress, having driven up early in the morning in more comfortable clothes. Both were in the category of our "older" guests, and because of this, I was especially concerned about their comfort. They were also extremely honored guests; they have both had a profound, wonderful impact on our lives, so I wanted them to both enjoy themselves and feel well treated.

The old, quirky house of my childhood was not built with locks on the bathroom doors. Somehow, this was never a big deal when I was growing up. We all got fairly used to hollering or knocking to establish vacancy. I never recall, even in my intense teen girl years, caring much that the bathrooms did not lock.

But on the day of my wedding, my two dear, older Austrian friends did care; the prospect of having someone walk in on them was, I am sure, horrifying.

The beautiful part of this story, at least from a bride's perspective, is that most of it occurred without my knowing anything about it.

I was at the house, getting dressed, with my sister and other bridesmaids. I was, as was natural, a bit self-absorbed. I had no idea that Margaret and Lola were having "dressing room issues."

But I do remember seeing my dad, all decked out in his classy tuxedo, walking out to his studio, rumaging around, returning with tools. There, amid the flurry of activity, the people running to and fro, guests in the way on the deck, my dapper dad calmly found two hook and eye sets, got the right tools, went into the house and made our bathrooms lock-able. For Margaret and Lola. Before I even knew they were having a minor tizzy about the lock-less bathrooms.

Such a small, simple thing. But on a day when you are hosting 260 people in your back yard, when you've got a million details to see to, I think it takes a special kind of grace to screw hook and eye assemblies into place, especially to do it calmly. He took care of my friends; I heard about it later. But now, whenever I'm at their house and in one of those bathrooms, the hook and eye latch reminds me of my wedding day, my good friends, my lovely father, and the care he and my mother took that day to make everything perfect.

Saturday was Dad's birthday. This post was supposed to have been written and posted that day. As with everything else in my life, it didn't get done until a bit too late. So two days later, here it is, straight from my heart and my memory, to my dad on his birthday. Happy Birthday Dad, and thank you so much for the hook and eyes.

Love, Monica

* * *

23 October 2009

Raising Environmentalists

While I admire your commitment to the creed of "Reduce, Reuse, Recycle," I would much rather have you toss your empty Capri Sun pouch instead of saving it to use as a whoopie cushion.

He does get 10 points for creativity, though.

* * *

22 October 2009

Rain on the Roof

I have learned my appreciation of poetry from my husband.

Being a lover of books and literature in general, I've always liked poetry well enough, but have never really delved into the genre with enthusiasm. That is, until meeting and marrying the father of my children.

He loves poetry. He loves the art, the craft, and maybe most of all, the marriage of sound and meaning. I had never really thought about the sounds of poetry before hearing him wax eloquently about the repetition of consonants or the rhythym of iambic pentameter. I just thought poetry was nice and rhyme-y. Except for the stuff that didn't rhyme, which I admit baffled me a bit.

But Rick has introduced me, and our offspring, to the pleasure of sounds -- and really, sounds do take us places, don't they? I think of the deep delight I take in the sound of rain on the roof while I am cozy beneath blankets...or the rush of the creek next to my girlhood home after a big rain...or the crunch of car wheels pulling up my mom and dad's driveway. Sounds are evocative, and poetry is their expression.

I am thankful to have learned this from Rick. And he is raising our children to hear poetry around them everyday, too.

The other day in the car, my nine-year old opened a glass bottle of carbonated pomegranate cider, and was delighted by the PFFFT-sound released by the twist of his wrist. He told me he liked to close the bottle, let the bubbles build up, and open it again so he could hear that same sound over and over.

Which led us to think about what other sounds we love. The conversation went something like this:

7-year old: "You love rain on the roof, mom!"

9-year old: "I also love that steam-y sound that trains make when they start and stop!"

7-year old: "You love hearing us laugh, mom!"

9-year old: (because we were now in a parking lot, on our way to watch Sam play soccer) "I love this sound, mom!" At which point he put down the drink he was carrying, placed a soccer ball on the ground, backed up, and then kicked the ball using the exact sweet spot on the top of his foot to produce that beautiful "thunk" of a well-placed shot.

This was one of the most fun conversations I've ever had with my kids. I was so delighted to discover that they listen, maybe not to me when I'm asking them to put their shoes away, but to the world around them, to the train going by, to the laughter that makes me smile.

I worry so much about the damage we are doing to our children when we fail, when we yell too much, when we aren't nearly patient enough. I know parents who are able to shrug off this complicated, crazy-making anxiety: I am not one of them. I worry. Because we are all they have in terms of parents, and sometimes, we fall miserably short.

But after conversations like this one, my heart soars because I think to myself that they are going to be fine, even better than fine, because they can hear things around them and describe the sounds they like the best, and because I hear some of the good things we do for them reflected back to me.

Their words and observations are rain on the roof: in the midst of a storm, they help me know that we will all be OK in this difficult and beautiful world.

* * *

19 October 2009

Don't Report Me

Although I am definitely guilty of Blog Neglect, I am throwing myself at your mercy and begging you not to call BPS on me. Blog Protective Services. Those people could revoke my blog-ental rights and possibly even remove my blog from my home!

Look, I know I can do better, be better. Give me another chance. Send me to some classes or training or something. Don't make me talk to a judge, who sees too many cases of Blog Neglect to give bloggers like me a fair shake.

I am better than this. Please let me prove it.


A blogger with the firm resolve to, you know, actually blog. Sometime soon. When work slows down. Or the kids grow up and move out. Or the earth moves under my feet. Or I just make the damn time.

* * *

15 October 2009

Support the Public Option

Another cut and paste from MoveOn.org; please join me!

* * *

After months of delay, the full Senate is about to debate and vote on landmark health care legislation. But first, Senator Harry Reid and Democratic leaders have a big decision to make:

Will the Senate consider real health care reform with a public health insurance option, or a watered-down compromise full of giveaways to Big Insurance?

I just signed a petition asking Sen. Reid to include a strong public health insurance option in the Senate's health care bill. Will you join me at the link below?

Click here to sign the petition!


* * *

11 October 2009

It Must Be So Easy to Raise French Children

Today, I asked my three year old to put away her bowl and spoon.

"No" is what I got in return. That and these gems: "I'm not gonna." "La la-la la-la la, you can't make me." "I hate you." Lots of these responses came from an upside-down mouth, as she repeatedly stood on her head (on the couch cushions), and bounced up and down like a crazed squirrel.

There must be very few vocations that require as much on your feet creativity as parenting does: I had to work hard to come up with new and effective ways to get her to carry her bowl and spoon into the kitchen that did not involve using a choke hold, damaging my vocal chords, or promising her a pony.

It was not easy. 15 minutes of my life are now a foggy, misty blur because I sacrificed them to the intense concentration necessary to get what I wanted from her while avoiding the aforementioned prohibitions.

The bowl and spoon ended up where they belong, and I lost minutes off of my total life span for the grief and suffering I endured along the way. I have no memory of what finally did it, what wore her down.

* * *

Cut to dinner time. Once again, dishes needed to be cleared away. It so happened that I served dinner to my three girls (it was a ladies night at our house) with a French accent. The three of them thought this was pretty funny, and kept asking for "That French Guy." Apparently, I can do french, but it's a masculine french.

Anyway, I braced myself for the clean up resistance, also known as the Toddler Liberation Front. But the most amazing thing happened. I made my request in a french accent -- "Pleeeeeze, put zee deeshes away in zee keetchin, mon chere!" -- and the previously recalcitrant three year old complied with glee. She even asked me to ask her to put something else away!

So I guess I will have to get used to sounding like a french dude, if I am to ever get what I want from her. Might be a little strange in public, but if we skirt the whole tantrum thing and I get to keep some of those bonus minutes at the end of my life, I'm all over it.

* * *

Not My Path to Sainthood

Judging by the intense resentment I feel for every single one of my offspring today, laundry-as-devotion will never be my entre into beatification.

But then again, how is it that I can have so little gumption, so little courage, that when I face a day determined to conquer the laundry and the dustbunnies that I last until just after lunch before giving up completely?

At least I lasted until 3:47 before I cracked open a cold one. That has to count for something. Probably not towards spiritual enlightment, but maybe towards being a more bearable mother?

I'll take it.

* * *

05 October 2009

Unlikely Blessings

I have a friend who once told me that she sees laundry as a spiritual exercise.

Yes, you read that correctly.

This comes from a mother of four young boys, who most certainly has a larger-than-most-families laundry case load. And she's not some rose-colored glasses, put-a-happy-face-on-everything mom. She's real, she's gritty, she yells as much as I do, she loses patience like we all do, and she loves her kids truly, madly, deeply.

I think about her laundry prayer often when I am faced by incomprehensible piles of clothes, colassal mountains of dirty dishes, and family life detritus on every conceivable surface. Keeping up with this household feels so burdensome at times.

But I aspire to my friend's brand of devotion to taking care of the things that take care of everyone else. The tasks are truly thankless and never-ending. And yet, they are vital to everyone in the family. If I can do them with some semblance of grace, patience, devotion, presence...maybe they can come to mean more than drudgery.

* * *

I'll let ya' know how that goes.

* * *