30 June 2010

Wine and Prayer

Dear Diary,

I am feeling so uninspired and defeated tonight. I've just spent the last two hours sitting on my back-side, playing my chauffeur role and carting people to and fro.

I had a productive morning: I finally staked my overgrown tomato plants -- half of them at least -- which has been on my to do list for over a month. I was particularly happy about one of my staking solutions. The challenge in front of me was that I had roughly 15-20 plants to trim and stake, and I wanted to find a way to do this without shelling out $8 per tomato cage, which is what I've heard they generally go for. I don't have an extra $160 to spend on tomato cages, so I had to get creative. On most of them, I just used some rebar pieces we had laying around, tied with green gardening ribbon. But in my hunt around the yard for additional rebar, I spied the most delightful wrought iron gate, all unused in a corner, just waiting for a lovely purpose. Voila!

It's been a downhill slide since then.

Because while I was staking tomatoes, my kids were occupying themselves. That's good, right? Well, they occupied themselves by making ice cream. They found the instructions online, and away they went. (As a bonus, they also learned another great lesson about how the internet is a potential mine field: In their search for online ice cream-making instructions, the Google result right above the one they used was -- no lie -- How To Make Ice Cream In A Condom. On a positive note, it's nice that the world keeps surprising me.)

Anyway, while I was industriously staking tomatoes, they were spreading vanilla, milk, and sugar liberally across my kitchen. The sight of it brought me to my knees.

But there was no time to clean it up: I had to buzz through an estimate that was due to a client by 1:00, so right at lunch time, I had to prepare food for the natives and then hide upstairs with my computer. This time, they were banished to the outside.

I emerged from my computer screen, estimate complete, to discover the unholy mess they had made in our courtyard. Any time to clean it up? Nope! Gotta go pick up Puck.

From 2:30 on, I was in the car. Tack on a couple of errands, and I landed home at about 4:30, knowing that I had a sticky kitchen to un-stickify and a garden strewn far and wide with stuffed animals, dishes, blankets and general kid detritus. Tallulah, in her infinite wisdom, decided there wasn't enough on my plate, so she stuck a wad of gum in her sister's hair as they rode next to each other on the last row of the prison cell that is my minivan.

I am grumpy and irritated. My house is a complete disaster. My spouse is away until at least 8pm. I need to feed them and clean them. I need to de-gum one of them. I need to guide them through Clean Up Time or do it all myself in order to avoid the inevitable bitch-fest. I need to do everything without falling apart or screaming at my kids. I need to be Super Woman.

All I really want to do is go somewhere very, very quiet and listen to my own breathing. That might make me burst into tears, but at least I could get that out of the way and then listen to the quiet. I am again reminded of the Grinch, and his distaste for the noise, noise, NOISE, NOISE! I feel like that Grinch right now, like my heart (and this house) is two sizes two small. I feel like I'm going to open up a can of whoop-ass on the first person who says boo! in response to having to clean up.

I'm trying, Ringo. I'm tryin' real hard to be the shepherd.

* * * (asterisks indicate the passage of time: 1 hour in this case.)

Well Diary, I discovered that a well-placed glass of wine is a beautiful thing. Well-placed is important, though. Too soon, and it wears off before you really need it, and you end up having another, and another, and weeping into the glass while your children eye you suspiciously. Too late, and it won't do you a damn bit of good. Its curative effects will arrive mere moments after you turn into Linda Blair at a young un's misdeed. But if you get the timing just right, somehow, someway, you will manage to shepherd the children through the clean-up process. They will bitch and moan, but the wine: the wine will keep you, the wine will guide you, the wine will show you the way.

My house is clean. (OK, just the common areas; the bedrooms are FEMA zones.) My children did indeed bitch and moan, but thanks to the wine, I stayed remarkably cheery throughout. My children are watching the Muppets Wizard of Oz. They still must be fed, but everything is quiet, and I'm on my second glass of wine.

Oh, well, I suppose it must be admitted that I did, earnestly, pray for the strength to get through the evening. I am the praying kind. I have faith that prayers are answered. Tonight, mine were, and I did what I thought, at 4:30, would be impossible: I was the shepherd that got us through. Sometimes, the answer to a prayer comes in the form of a bottle of wine.

Benjamin Franklin was right: Wine is the "constant proof that God loves us, and loves to see us happy."

Actually, I think the full quote is far more beautiful than the pithy, oft-quoted abbreviated version:

We hear of the conversion of water into wine at the marriage in Cana as of a miracle. But this conversion is, through the goodness of God, made every day before our eyes. Behold the rain which descends from heaven upon our vineyards; there it enters the roots of the vines, to be changed into wine; a constant proof that God loves us, and loves to see us happy. The miracle in question was only performed to hasten the operation, under circumstances of present necessity, which required it.

found here, at Wikipedia

Ben. Dude. Tres insightful.

Oh my, Diary. It seems that wine makes me ramble a bit; at least, I think it's the wine and not the prayer.

In any case. Time to float down to the kitchen and rustle up some dinner. Thank you God, for answered prayers and for the fruit of the vine. And for wrought iron gates.

* * *

29 June 2010

Oh, Puck!

Robert Sean Leonard as Neil Perry in
Dead Poet's Society, playing the part of Puck

It's Shakespeare time again! Our oldest son is back at the California Shakespeare Theatre's Summer Camp, a two-week experience that makes him glow for an entire year. This is his fourth year, and after three tragedies in a row--the plays themselves, not the camp--we finally got a comedy: A Midsummer Night's Dream.

And lo and behold, he landed the coveted part of Puck!

My son is quite a typical 11 almost 12 year old. He loves him some computer games, would spend all his time on the wii (if we let him, and if we currently had one), desperately wants a cell phone, thinks we exist to make his life miserable, can roll his eyes and display disgust like a 16 year old delinquent, and bemoans the fact that we don't eat at fast food restaurants.

But Shakespeare, ah, Shakespeare: Shakespeare lifts this boy up and out of himself and sets him down in an entirely different universe, and he loves loves loves it. He was telling me the story of MND today, and couldn't remember the name of one of the characters. And I said: "Maybe that's because you just heard it yesterday for the first time?" And he said: "No, mom, I've known this play forever: I really should know this!" Today, he nervously mentioned that he didn't think he could memorize all of his lines. I reminded him that he has said that same thing for the past three years, and that I was absolutely sure he could do it with ease. He smiled, and was reassured; he is not always an easy child to reassure, and watching him relax made me ever more grateful for this camp.

Every kid should have a chance to find that thing that gives him confidence, stretches his talents, gives him wings and teaches him to fly.

I love Shakespeare for what he has given my son. And I love those camp directors, who gave Samuel the part he really, really wanted this year. To be truthful, I'm not sure if he wanted the part because of Puck's role in the story or if one of Puck's most famous lines resonates with him as the oldest of five and he just wants one minute under the hot lights of the stage to proclaim his bit of truth to a captive audience:

"Lord, what fools these mortals be!"
A Midsummer Nights Dream Act 3, scene 2, line 115

It takes a village to raise a child, and I'm damn glad that William Shakespeare lives in my village. Now, if I could just get him to go pub hopping with me...

* * *

28 June 2010

Purple Haze

Let the Birthday Party Season commence! This past weekend, we hosted a birthday party for our 8 year old. Thus begins a wild ride that will see us hosting four more birthday parties in three and a half months.

Birthday parties render me comatose. After yesterday's festivities, I am in a haze. Thus, the title of this post. The purple? Why, that would be because of this:

She's a self-respecting rockin' eight year old girl, and this was the cake she wanted. Plus a treasure hunt, plus a soccer game. Plus steak. With 11 little friends.

No wonder I'm comatose.

One down, four to go. Must start self-medicating now, and keep myself there until October 13th

25 June 2010

You Make a Good Point, Son

Whew, we're home. We just survived another week of VBS, culminating in the usual Family Dinner complete with dancing and singing from all the campers. Now, we're getting ready to watch a recorded Spain v. Chile game, and Little T is leaning against me heavily, realizing that the day's events have worn her out.

Sam: "Mom, she's sure been a handful today, huh?"

Me, clueless: "Gee, not really. She had a pretty good day."

Sam: "Mom! What about when she was stomping back and forth on the sidewalk next to the van, not getting in the car and making us late for dinner?

Or when we were at the bank and she wouldn't get in her car seat?

Or when she rifled through your purse when you left it on the kitchen table, took your ATM cards out of your wallet and hid them so you didn't have them when we went to the bank?

Or when she wouldn't leave me alone even after you told her to a million times?

Or when she put the battery operated Buzz Lightyear in the bathtub?

Or when she told you, in front of a guest we had just met, she was going to put her butt in your face?

Or when she wouldn't stay still and eat her sandwich?

Or when she kept grabbing your face and forcing you to look where she wanted you to when you were talking to Angie at dinner tonight?

This is a record of one six hour period of time. So yeah, the kid's got a point, and I have a seriously skewed sense of a pretty good day with this particular three year old. The past few years with this girl have radically changed my baseline for normal behavior. I'm doomed.

* * *

Reach for the Stars

I just finished reading the book The Glass Castle.

A fascinating read, I highly recommend it.

I came away from the experience with a brand new goal for motherhood: Raise each of my five children to adulthood without giving them enough memoir fodder to write a best-selling book about their childhood.

I aim high.

* * *

24 June 2010

Of Course. Warning: this post is potty-related. Not for the squeamish.

Little T has been slowly, ever so slowly, inching her way towards being totally diaper free. Daytimes are almost free of diaps: we can go anywhere we need to without a diaper bag, and she never has a pee accident. Poop? Another story. Turns out, she's one of those kids, the ones who resist proper voiding of bms for whatever reason. Control issues? Fear of parting with a significant piece of herself? Just wants to piss me off? Who knows. All I know is that when we are at home, for the past four or five months, we've had successful poops maybe 15 times. The rest of the time, I've been cleaning up an ungodly amount of...well...shit.

Many days, by 5pm or so, I have thrown in the towel (after throwing the actual towels in the washing machine on the hottest possible setting and then needing to do a bleach-only rinse of the machine before putting anything else in there) and resorted to diapers to get me through the evening. No one wants to make dinner while monitoring a pooper, am I right? Amen, I am right.

Without getting too graphic here, the problem is that she has been resisting the whole experience so much that she produces small amounts of stuff multiple times in one afternoon or evening. It's not a one-off and we're done. It's excruciatingly repetitive.

So I'm still buying diapers.


I have, on principal alone, refused to buy the huge Costco box of diaps. I just haven't wanted to accept that we still need the damn things, and somehow, buying the smaller pack at the grocery store has helped me feel closer to the end line.

What a fool I am. I should have known that the surest way to not need diapers anymore was to bring that ginormous box home and wait.

I finally gave in the other day and bought the 125-count box. This week? I forgot to put a diaper on her one night, and she woke up dry. So she has decided she doesn't need them at night, and it turns out, she's right. And during the day? 3 out of 4 days have seen pooping success. One trip to the toilet, and done for the day.

Of course.

I have 100+ diapers left and I am begging and pleading with the Diaper Gods that I can offer these on Freecycle sometime very, very soon.

* * *

22 June 2010

What They REALLY Think About All Day At School

We are deep into the sheltering arms of summer here at Casa Alatorre.

Today, my nine year old has spent the entire day building an amazing tee-pee fort in the back garden. There is a darn good reason we have kept a large pile of branches in one corner of our yard, and this is it. Today's tee-pee is an improvement on previous models: it's spacious, with room "for seven people, if they're kids" on the inside, and the branches selected don't have offshoots that might poke you in the eye if you stand up in the middle of the tee-pee, a significant upgrade from yesterday's version. Fort Cenzo features a sink with running water (a toy bin set beneath a hose), an archery area (a round garbage bin lid propped up on one side), and a soccer field (pug goals on either end). Four American flags, happy to be pressed into service since being abandoned after the England v. USA world cup match, adorn the top. And best of all, my involvement has been at an all time minimum. Score!

I just told my husband about it on the phone, and he asked me if I had documented it yet. Sadly, I have not. I'm too afraid to go in the back yard because my presence has a way of reminding them of the 67 demands they want to make of me. So, no pictures today. I'm enjoying their independence far too much to ruin it for posterity.

* * *

These days, the kids have been eating lunch outside, running around barefoot, and generally living the life I wish for them.

As the school year fades into the background, they've piped up every now and then with little gems from their year. Here are two I found especially enlightening:

Nine year old: "I used to spend most of every afternoon hoping that you would come and pick me up early; you actually did a few times, so I thought if I kept wishing for it, it might happen again. Even if you were there just 5 minutes early, it was so cool."

Five year old: "Mom, we got through the entire school year without a fire! The school didn't burn down once! I used to wonder every day if we would have a fire drill that wasn't a fire drill but was real because there was a real fire. But guess what? We didn't have a single fire the entire, whole year!" (Related with wide-eyed and joy-filled excitement.)

I think they might be learning more from the fort-building endeavors going on these days.

* * *

21 June 2010

When the To Do List Gets Too Long, Become a Food Blogger

There are 19 items on my to-do list today. I have done 11 of them. I started the day with five kids, shed two at a day camp, and then picked up three more friends, so I'm at +1 from baseline at the moment. There are many things happening around here, and the 11 shiny undone to-do items are winking at me from yonder on the table. I feel like ignoring them, so I have decided to become a food blogger.

Thank you to Nicole (who gave birth to two of the friends here at the moment) for giving me a lovely idea to try with my fresh-from-the-garden, just-picked radishes. Radishes are ravishing. Here is one of the beauties my kids picked this afternoon:

And here is what I did with it:

Yum. Nicole recommended a good slice of bread (I toasted mine), a little butter, thinly sliced ravishing radishes, and a spray of salt across the top. It was a lovely little pick-me-up, better than the coffee I was scheming about.

So yeah, I needed a little distraction; but I can't actually become a food blogger because I can't actually cook much, and I'm not so hot at taking pictures.

OK, I'm going to go try for Items #12 and #13. They're winking the hardest.

* * *

17 June 2010

Another Reason Kids and Technology Do Not Mix

Stumbled on this blog today. Had to share this post. Classic.

* * *

How Sharper Than a Serpent's Tooth...

...are my children.

And curse you, Will Shakes, for penning words that have proven only too true under my roof.

If she must teem,
Create her child of spleen, that it may live
And be a thwart disnatur'd torment to her!
Let it stamp wrinkles in her brow of youth,
With cadent tears fret channels in her cheeks,
Turn all her mother's pains and benefits
To laughter and contempt, that she may feel
How sharper than a serpent's tooth it is
To have a thankless child!

King Lear Act 1, scene 4, 281–289

To make matters worse, I have teemed five times, so that five serpents' teeth can cut me to the quick. What have I done to deserve the cadent tears and the wrinkled brow? I am no less innocent than Cordelia herself, and yet I endure the eye-rolling, the puffs of disgust and the scorn in spades. What have I done to deserve this?

Oh, THAT'S right: I decided to take the kids somewhere fun today. No wonder my name is anathema to them.

We were having an uneventful day around here. Three World Cup Games had already been viewed by 1:00 pm. Two kids were playing outside, a few were hanging around inside. I got an email from a friend that a group of moms and kids was meeting at a local park around 1:30. I had been doing work and chores all morning, so I figured it would be good to get everyone out of the house for awhile.

Note to parents: Never interupt a perfectly boring day with the suggestion that you do something fun with your family. When I made that mistake, the complaining started. And the bickering and the fighting and the back-stabbing.

I want to go to the beach instead. Who's going to be there? Do we HAVE to bring Tallulah? Stop being stupid, [Insert Sibling Name Here]. HE PUNCHED ME. I don't want to wear shoes! Can't we go somewhere else? I-don-wanna-go-pee-first-why-do-you-always-make-me-do-that-I-don-wanna. I'm staying here. SHOT GUN! NO I CALLED SHOT GUN! YOU HAD IT LAST TIME! IT'S MY TURN! HE ALWAYS GETS SHOT GUN. MOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOM! SHUT UP YOU STUPID IDIOT. Mom, make her stop or I am going to punch her. Can we bring [insert 20 different toys or 10 friends that live 30 minutes away or a catered meal]? WHY NOT? You are SO mean.

If that weren't unpleasant enough, the stalling made it positively unbearable. How long, exactly, does it take to put on a pair of shoes? And why do you need to change clothes three times at the last minute, only to end up wearing what you started with in the first place? And how hard is it to clear the table of your three lunch dishes and why am I asking you to do it 5+ times before it gets done?

And then there was the car ride. Nearly dead from the effort to get them in the car in the first place, I was then treated to a 10-minute trip during which they managed to insult each other, make each other cry, scream, complain bitterly that I don't care about them, and freak out over various minor offenses.

Why, oh why are they so downright unpleasant?

Must be because I am ineffective as a parent. Sure, that's it. If I were more consistent, or more organized, or more competent, they'd all hop to and do my bidding, right? Well, then they're as screwed as I am.

Thomas Hobbes had it almost right: Children are nasty, brutish and short. Apparently, I need to establish a social contract with my own kids.

* * *

We went to the park. They had fun. I was exhausted. I am not sure it was worth it.

* * *

Part of the adventure of our 5 hour road trip on Sunday included having to stop in a dinky little gold rush town on our return trip to change a tire. Imagine that little tableaux for a moment. Everyone's tired and hopped up on birthday cake and soda. Everyone knows we will be cooped up together in a car for at least 2.5 hours. And we realize that that rushing sound we are hearing is our rear passenger tire, gushing air out of a hole in the valve stem. So, we pulled over and found an empty lot where Rick could put the spare on while the kids could occupy themselves without being in danger of (a) getting hit by a car or (b) knocking the car off of the jack.

It only took about 30 minutes. It was the best 30 minutes of watching my kids that I've experienced in quite a while. They played soccer: Sam, Elizabeth and Tallulah against Vincenzo and Lola. They were downright gracious and kind to each other. They played hard, with good sportsmanship. The olders passed the ball to the littles, and went a touch easier on them too. Sam was the very picture of the Perfect Oldest Brother. They encouraged each other, and laughed at their own missteps. It was one of those moments when having a big family really is about always having a crowd to play with and always having a tribe to watch your back. I just sat back and watched them play, honored to witness the kind of freedom and happiness that adults can't remember experiencing.

That's what I want for my kids. Watching them that evening, many miles from home, I saw that they do and will have each other for their entire lives and that when push comes to shove, they'll take care of each other. They really do love each other, despite their serpentine days. I'm going to hold on to that and pray that sometime before Sam graduates from high school, I get to see another 30 minutes like the ones we spent in the setting summer sun, in a parking lot far, far away, changing a tire and having a happy family.

* * *

Today, they were pure evil to me and to each other.

And so goes the yin and yang of family life.

* * *

16 June 2010

52 T-Shirts

I am in the process of weeding through my children's clothing. This week, I’ve been focusing on the boys' clothes. Without finishing the laundry and before counting whatever t-shirts might by on their floor, behind their beds, balled up in their closet, cast off in the minivan, stuck God knows where, I have so far counted 52 boy t-shirts.

There is something seriously wrong with two boys owning 52 t-shirts.

I wonder how many shirts the average 10 year old boy in Haiti has. Or had, before the earthquake, and then how many he has now. I wonder how many shirts the average South African 10 year old boy has. How many shirts did he have to choose from to wear on the day he watched his countrymen play Mexico in the opening game of the World Cup? For that matter, I wonder how many shirts the average school-kid has in my own urban and afflicted city.

I'm guessing none of those three hypothetical boys has anywhere near 26 t-shirts (52 divided by my two male offspring).

I figure I'll find at least 10 more shirts scattered far and wide around this house. There are probably at least 1 or 2 in the backyard.

In our feeble defense, I will say that those shirts are mostly divided into four categories: (1) they came from the local thrift shop; (2) they are hand-me-downs; (3) they were gifts; or (4) they came from a camp, event, contest, team, or some other special event that included a shirt. I cannot remember ever once buying the boys a t-shirt from a regular retail shop, just because.

Of the thrift shop collection, we got one for our 2nd son that was spot on perfect for him during this past school year. He was mis.er.a.ble. the entire year, disliking his classroom with the white hot intensity of a thousand suns. Rick found him this shirt:

That right there is t-shirt perfection.

We've got shirts from Shakespeare camp (three of them), soccer camp, the garden tour, and the San Francisco Giants (at least 4). We've got the fun shirts, like the one pictured above, or the one that says "You Can Have My Sister." We've got a handful of plain white tees. We've got hand-painted Roberto Clemente and Willie Stargell Pittsburg Pirates t-shirts . We've got the One World, One Game shirts, one for every dude in the house; they're like a triptych in those things.

But the situation is out of control, so yesterday, the boys and I pared it down to 20. Well, slightly more than 20, because I decided to keep, for memory's sake, the Clemente and Stargell shirts I painted for them and the Murphy's Irish Pub shirt with my dad’s cartoon image of himself on the back.

We also weeded through their shorts, pants, jeans, sweatshirts, swimtrunks (they had seven!) and pajamas. I am happy to report that now, all of their stuff almost fits in their dresser drawers.

On to the girls next week. I already know I'm going to struggle with this one:

No one has fit into this dress or hat in over three years, and I still can't part with them. The nostalgia factor is just too high.

Why do we get so attached to our clothing? Or is that just me?

* * *

15 June 2010

14 June 2010


Yesterday, my day consisted of getting new tires, searching for live crickets, buying live silkworms instead, trying to talk to the rackin-frackin insurance company, dealing with a daughter who keeps pooping in her underwear, working on art projects for Father's Day, watching part or all of three world cup games (we're sad Cameroon lost), going on a handful of errands (including one that earned me a beer with a favorite family), completing and mailing next school year's enrollment forms, and feeding people.

No wonder I am dizzy.

This past Sunday, we drove five hours, 2.5 hours into the foothills for a birthday party and 2.5 hours back. Once again, my love for farmland and foothills was re-affirmed and strengthened. It's absolutely beautiful out there in the middle of nowhere.

The linguist Geoff Nunberg, a professor at Cal, did a radio essay yesterday on the NPR program Fresh Air about how haiku has been all over twitter. You can listen to it here:

I do not twitter, but I like playing around with haiku. So here are two, inspired by my last couple of days.

Haiku for a Busy Day

Much to take care of:
Bank, friends, forms, art, food, futbol.
Done. Good and dizzy.

Haiku for a Road Trip to the Countryside, Where I Wish I Lived

Miles take me there.
Landscape lulls me to silence.
But I don't sleep there.

* * *

Join the Haiku party: post yours in a comment!

* * *

13 June 2010

I Am Not A Pillow

I have three daughters whom I adore. They adore me too. They like to be close to me. Really, really close to me. They smother me.

I love cuddling with one of them. Doesn't matter which one, but one seems to be the limit for me to be able to enjoy the time together. Any more than that and I turn into She Who Must Not Be Touched.

When my family is, say, watching a World Cup soccer game, which we've been doing a fair amount of, I usually end up standing behind the couch. If I attempt to sit down, I am promptly covered in girl children. They sit on any available portion of my body, my legs, arms, head, if need be. They attempt to achieve as high a percentage as possible of body to body contact. They crush me.

When I sit down to, say, write a blog post, it takes about 5.3 seconds before a girl child (or two or three) is pressing against my arm, leaning into my side and invading my space. Like right now as I type, and keep having to correct spelling because it's hard to type correctly when my left arm is supporting a 5 year old and my right leg is trying to keep a three year old at bay. And my seven year old is trying to engage me in conversation.

Once draped all over me, they usually sit peacefully for another 5.3 seconds before the squirming and bickering begin. They want to touch as much of me as possible, but go bananas if "her" leg touches "hers." They compare how much space they each have and make pronouncements about fairness and justice. They make life miserable.

It's not a nice feeling to be a mom who says: "NOPE!" as soon as a wee girl makes her way over to my lap, setting off the radar on the other two girls: BEEP BEEP BEEP BEEP LAP SITTING IS TAKING PLACE BEEP BEEP BEEP BEEP MUST JOIN THE PARTY BEEP BEEP BEEP BEEP.

It's not a nice feeling to avoid physical contact with my girls.

I do love them so, but the amount of closeness they require is exhausting.

So my mothering challenge for today: Lovingly explain to my daughters the concept of personal space, without hurting their feelings, so that I neither bark at them nor become their pillow, so that all four of us arrive at the end of the day feeling like we got our needs met: their need to touch me as often as possible and my need not to feel like an overworked sheep at a petting zoo visited by a ADHD-infested classroom of kindergardeners.

Sounds pretty impossible to me. But I'm all about attempting the impossible, so let's see how this goes.

* * *

11 June 2010

7 Quick Takes Friday: Volume 8

1. What do you call one terrible event, followed by multiple, wonderful acts of kindness and generosity? A big fat juicy blessing in disguise. And not a very good disguise at that.

* * *

2. Children's responses to our recent theft:

Panicky 5 year old with tear-filled eyes just ready to spill over: "Did they take my blankeys?"


Clueless 3 year old: "They left a buncha stuff on da flowuh." (No, sweetheart, your room looked like this before "they" broke in; sorry.)

Cool, collected 7 year old: "I hate people."

And last, but not to be outdone by a single, solitary soul, my emotive 11 year old: "F*CK! THAT'S JACKED UP!" Ahem. I don't know where he learned to speak that way.

* * *

3. I cry at Spelling Bees, Kindergarten graduations, and World Cup opening ceremonies. But just for the record, that first goal scored by Mexico this morning was, in fact, offsides. The ref called it right. And I finally get on/off sides. And boy does South Africa know how to celebrate The Beautiful Game.

* * *

4. We went to Stow Lake in Golden Gate Park yesterday.

I thought it would be fun to ride the paddle boats. Rick was not with us, so it was me and five members of the Under 12 Set. The rule on the paddle boats is 4 people to a boat, and one of them has to be 16 or older. One ride costs $20. I could not figure out how to get me and three kids on the boat, leaving a scaredy cat Tallulah on the shore, with...who? Her 5 year old sister, who would have been completely livid about being left behind? Her 11 year old brother, who would sell her for a stick of gum? I wasn't about to plunk down $40 for two rides. So. We hiked the trails instead, and left the paddle boats for another day when dad gets to be with us. I was as bummed as the kids were, truly. Life is sort of set up for smaller families than mine.

That is the downside of having a large family.

* * *

5. Summer officially started for us yesterday. Putting away school uniforms has been blissful. I am really looking forward to having fun with the kids this summer. I hope we go swimming a whole bunch of times. Every year I tell them we'll swim all summer long, and every year I turn out to be a big fat liar. I hope I can end the summer with some Swimming Integrity.

* * *

6. Someone recently asked me what I would recommend for a baby shower gift. Having had one or two of these myself, and having been to a few, I actually have an answer for this! (I usually respond with "Uh, I dunno" when asked questions about babies, their care and feeding, or anything related to hosting parties for them.) Shower gifts are usually of the "care and feeding" ilk, that or the "OMG that is so cute I could just die" ilk. And there is certainly a place, or several, for those kinds of gifts. But I struck on what I thought was kind of unique when I gave a gift of our favorite 6 or 8 children's books to some dear friends of ours when they were having their first child about 7 years ago. Books don't seem to be commonly given at baby showers. It became kind of a tradition that we would give some combination of these books to an expectant family. Giving this gift makes me feel great because these books represent some of our best memories (and current experiences) with our kids. So if you are looking for a creative baby gift, or looking to get some great books for your own kids, here are some of the titles on our gift giving list. I don't want to promote any particular source to purchase these books, so you'll have to google them yourself if you are interested:

A Tree Is Nice
One Morning in Maine
Always Room for One More
My Many Coloured Days -- oooo, love this one. Great for wee one just starting to be read to; we had it in a board book version.
A Time of Wonder -- wonderful and long; good for readers with the ability to sit and be rapt by (or wrapped in) language.
Cowboy Small
Harold and the Purple Crayon

And that's what my memory has fed me today; if I think of more, I will add to that list.

* * *

7. "It is a miracle that curiosity survives formal education." -- Albert Einstein; discuss.

* * *

Go to Conversion Diary for the original 7 Quick Takes Friday; she's on Volume 84!

* * *

09 June 2010

Just Things

Just Things were taken from us yesterday.

I came home from dropping the kids at school and discovered that our front door had been kicked in. Plaster, nails, splinters of wood were scattered across my front hall.

This is the first time something like this has happened to us. Luckily, we are all completely safe, unharmed, whole, and well.

Luckily, I was by myself when I walked in, no kids with me, so no kids around to see me shaking like a leaf, rocked to the core, teary, confused, overwhelmed, stricken.

Luckily, "they" took our computers, camera, ipod, wii, games, but left our precious sentimental stuff undisturbed.

Luckily, "they" didn't find my son's ipod, or his stash of cash. Luckily, my son is a complete slob, or his stuff would have been far easier to find.

Luckily, I reluctantly agreed to have coffee with a friend after dropping off the kids, or I would have been home.

The worst part was telling the kids and watching the knowledge that sometimes people do awful things sink into their brains. My 7 year old's repeated refrain for the last day has been "I hate people."

Sometimes, I do too, sweetie. But I sure do love the family and friends who have responded with calls, food, pizza, beer, friendship, care for our children, care for us, a computer to borrow, a power cord to go with it, and the certain knowledge that sometimes people do wonderful things too.

Luckily everything "they" took was Just Things and can be replaced. Every single unreplaceable bit of love that resides in my home and my heart is still here, safe and sound.

Hug your children today.

* * *

06 June 2010

I Wonder What Kind of Beer Obama Drinks

Yesterday, we bar-b-qued for dinner, an activity that always entails many trips back and forth between the kitchen and the bbq area of the backyard. We tend to leave our drinks in various locations, so part of tonight was devoted to questions like: Whose beer is this? Did you take yours outside? Had you already had this much? Is this one mine or yours? You know, important questions. Questions of family stability and marital harmony.

My nine year old, sensing the weight we place on such matters, remarked: "You guys talk about beer like Obama talks about health insurance."

I think he's on to us.

* * *

No Wonder My Stomach Feels Odd

Tonight, I'd like to share a bit of funny from my brother.

Click that link. Come back. Leave a comment.

Now, let's see how well you all follow instructions.

*smiley face*

And in a random edition of You Know You Have A Big Family When...

you make 14 hot dogs baked in pizza dough for lunch,
and people are still hungry when they're gone.

* * *

03 June 2010

7 Quick Takes Friday: Volume 7

1. World Cup Fever has swept through our house. Almost everyone has been hit, and hit hard, by the epidemic.

Those, my friends, are flags from 25 of the 32 countries competing in the 2010 celebration of the beautiful game. The other seven are still under construction, but will be added soon, I am sure.

And this promo gets played and replayed around here. Give yourself a treat and watch it. My son has taken to telling me to "Write the future, mom."

* * *

2. Do you ever feel like the day is just impossibly short? Why is it that even though I have 3 hours stretching in front of my before I have to pick up the kids from school, I already feel defeated, like there's no way I can get even one thing done? Today is one of those days. I feel like throwing in the towel and taking a nap. That's fine, from time to time; but a stronger feeling I have is the desire to NOT feel monumentally behind when the kids are unleashed from school for the weekend. Really, for the summer. Next week, they have two half days and one super short day, so after today, it's pretty much over. I could get so much done in the next 3 hours if I can give myself some kind of kick start. What do you do for a kick start? I need one, and bad.

* * *

3. And speaking of summer, I got an email the other day suggesting 101 Things To Do This Summer. Most are things you can do without having to go anywhere or spend much money. I think I'm going to print it out and put it on our fridge so the kids can see it and pick stuff. I remember learning the alphabet in sign language when I was a kid, and thought that one, in particular, sounded like fun. I've tried finding a way to link it here, but have been unsuccessful, so I'll give you some samples instead. If you'd like to see the full list, send me an email at mon.alatorre (at) gmail (dot) com, and I'll forward it to you. Here are a handful of goodies:

Learn to sew, embroider or crochet.
Maybe your grandmother can teach you.

Every day, look up and learn 2 new words from the dictionary.

Learn about musicals. Watch Seven Brides for Seven Brothers,
West Side Story and Fiddler on the Roof.

Read The Little Prince. This is a phenomenal piece of literature with multiple layers,
and it's a short read. Discover why it has been translated into more than
180 languages and why it has sold more than 80 million copies making
it one of the best-selling books ever.

Walk around your block and pick up all the litter you can find.
Take a trash bag... or two...

Lie outside at night and watch the sky for shooting stars.
Find out why shooting stars aren't really stars at all.

With your parent's permission, redecorate and rearrange your bedroom.
You can get paint for as little as a dollar a gallon at your local paint/hardware store.

Learn the alphabet in sign language.

Get up at dawn and appreciate the coolness and peaceful
feeling of the early morning. Compare it to the sweltering afternoon.

* * *

4. Another great read. Perfect for those days when you are feeling like maybe you are not such a great parent. Let yourself off the damn hook already!

* * *

5. Why do we expect our kids to do things that we are unwilling, unable, or nervous to do ourselves? Or is that just me?

* * *

6. I am continually relearning that we cannot raise our families in isolation. For most of the past several years, we've cringed at the idea of anyone coming into our home. It's usually kind of messy, usually kind of noisy, usually fairly chaotic. We try to hide our raggedy band, at least within the confines of our own home. But it's so much better when we don't. Things have been just ever so slightly less messy around lately, and that has encouraged me to open my doors to people, or be more willing to have them drop by, rather than my usual "Oh no, I'm on my way out anyway, I'll bring that item right to you!" My friend Nicole stopped by the other day...and it was so nice to have her here. I am going to work on opening that door more easily and warmly this summer. We are social animals after all; I just need to emphasis the social part more and the animal part a touch less. I am better in the company of friends, and would like to be better more often.

* * *

7. I'm terrible at the QUICK part of 7 Quick Takes. These posts always take me forever. That is so not the point; must work on that.

* * *

Go visit
Conversion Diary, the host of the original 7 Quick Takes Friday.

* * *

02 June 2010

Award Love

One of the most wonderful parts of blogging, for me, has been the opportunity to read amazing writing that I'm sure I would not otherwise ever see. Reading the words of my fellow bloggers reassures me that the written word is alive and thriving, not dying on the internet vine as some might have us believe. Equally wonderful has been the warm and enthusiastic responses I've enjoyed from friends and strangers to my own writing. I've always wanted to be a writer; thanks to Blog Land, I get to be.

Yesterday, I received a blog award from Teacher Mommy at Diapers and Dragons (don't worry, links below). She really shouldn't have, because I am long overdue in giving HER one, for a wonderful and creative post of hers from a few weeks ago. But she did anyway, because she's just that devious kind.

All of this got me thinking about how much blogs and blogging have become a part of my life over the past few years. How many of us check our favorite writers every morning? How many of us experience something during the day, and immediately start composing our next post in our heads? How many of us have "met" over the internet, united by nothing more than words that resonate between us? It's pretty awesome.

So today's post is all about celebrating blogging.

First, I finally bestow an award on Teacher Mommy, for her fabulous post If I Were.... For this out-of-the-box take on a traveling meme, I am giving her the Kreativ Blogger Award. (insert applause here.) I especially liked her "If I were a car" response.

Second, I gratefully display the award Teacher Mommy bestowed on me yesterday, for my Laundry Sonnet, which was really fun to write, but which sadly did not result in my laundry getting done.

And third, I encourage each of you to select a post that has recently touched you, made you laugh, think, cry, or finally get off the couch and take some action, and share it with others. Give it an award, or simply write about it on your blog and link to it so that others can read it as well. And then leave me a comment so I can visit your blog and see what you've been reading lately.

I'm so grateful to this blog. And to Teacher Mommy's blog. And to Jen at DiagnosisUrine. And to Viv, a Proud Mom to Many. And to many, many others. Let's share the love.

* * *

01 June 2010

Dirty Laundry

No scandalous secrets here, just loads and loads of laundry. Dirty clothes on the floors of the kids' rooms. Dirty clothes down by the washing machine. Damp towels on the bathroom floor. Clean clothes in the washer, waiting to be moved to the dryer. Clean clothes in the dryer, waiting to be folded. My laundry table, covered in clean clothes, some folded, most not, waiting to be moved. FOUR baskets of clean clothes in my bedroom, waiting to be put away. All of it, every last stitch, needing to be evaluated and divided into Keep, Toss, Give Away piles.

The phrase Dirty Laundry does not apply merely to what needs to be washed. Dirty is a general adjective to convey the exceedingly high level of my antipathy for laundry. Kind of like saying I have so much f***ing laundry, or "it's a dirty, scrappy, unpleasant, never-ending job, but someone's got to do it."

I fear I will not prevail over this laundry. I fear I am already defeated. The only thing to do is to write poetry. Or rather, to steal someone else's poetry. In words, I shall seek the strength I need.

Sonnet to my F***ing Laundry

How do I hate thee? Let me count the ways.

I hate thee to the depth and breadth and height
My arms can reach, when feeling out of sight
For the ends of towels and underpants.
I hate thee to the level of my family’s
Most urgent need, all day and every night.
I hate thee freely, as boys toss their socks about.
I hate thee purely, as girls turn outfits into piles.
I hate thee with a passion put to use
In my former life, and with frightening strength.
I hate thee with a hate I hope to lose
When my small saints move out.
I hate thee with the breath,
Fibers, tears, of all my life!—and, so help me God,
I shall put this hate to use to conquer you.

* * *