29 July 2011

Sporty Fresh

Ever heard of NaBloPoMo? The community effort to post every day for one month?

I tried it back in November of 2009, and I came darn close to posting every day. Close, but no cigar. I'm giving it another go for August 2011, in which the theme is Fiction. (From what I can tell, you can choose to write on the theme or not. The daily posting is really the thing; the theme is a structure you can use if you wish.)

Anyway, I think a little blog posting muscle flexing is in order, as I've not been the most disciplined writer of late. So I'll use the writing prompt provided by NaBloPoMo for today, for their July 2011 daily bloggers, to get me started. Here's the prompt:

"What was the last thing you bought?"

The last thing I bought was a stick of Right Guard Sport deodorant.

Because someone in my family was leaving the house for a music lesson, and someone else in my family suggested to the young prodigy that he apply a health dose of deodorant to himself, since after his lesson he would be going straight out for the entire evening with other people, and because when the suggest-or picked up the suggest-ee from the music lesson, it was entirely clear that this sage advice had not been followed, and because there was no time to go home and remedy the problem properly, and because the inside of the van, which was en route to drop off the young prodigy at the home of a third and innocent party, was beginning to have the air of a torture chamber...

For all of these reasons, I dashed into a drugstore and purchased a stick of Right Guard Sport, not the healthy kind, not just deodorant but actual antiperspirant, the stuff that traps everything in, clogs pores and bestows sweet relief on family and friends. Pressed for time as I was, I did the drugstore dash, turned in a C+ effort of holding my tongue with respect to the unfollowed advice, and managed to get him to his destination on time and smelling Sporty Fresh.

Because I want him to be invited back.

And because it's my job to teach him things about sweat.

And because I love him.

* * *

24 July 2011

If She's Not on Etsy, She Should Be

Entrenched as we are in the electronic age, we have lost the joy of sending and receiving actual mail, something we can hold in our hands and physically open up. Delivered packages are treasures indeed, am I right? I am right. And did I ever get a delightful one this past week!

Thank you ever so much to Mama Mama Quite Contrary, for the wonderful care package I received this week. I entered a giveaway on her blog, and contrary (no pun intended) to my luck in pretty much every other area of my life (Exhibit A: Tallulah), I WON! People, look what I got:

Items included
• a lovely, handmaid tote -- I completely adore this bag!
• the book One Day, by David Nicholls -- can't wait to read it
• earplugs (ooo, it's like she read my mind and heart)
• tea
• a humorous handwritten postcard from Mama Mama (who by the way, has lovely handwriting)
• a gift card to Donors.org, allowing me to give $25 to a worthy organization of my choosing

This goody package kicks the ass of every other goody package on the planet. This mama will enjoy every single one of these items. Mama Mama, you rock, and you roll, and you boogie, waltz, groove, get down, polka and shimmy, all at the same time!

Now the bag, people, the bag deserves some attention all its own. Take a gander at this hand made bit of loveliness:

Mama Mama, if you aren't selling these on Etsy, you totally should be. People would pay money for these bags. They are adorable and stylish and just the right size. And I just realized the photo doesn't show the cheerful yellow lining! Readers, please click over to her blog if you might be interested in one of these bags and leave a comment encouraging her to make (and sell) more!

Thank you, thank you, thank you for the lovely goody package! If you can't tell, I loved it.

And this, my friends, is but just one reason why I love the blogosphere.

:) Mama Monica

* * *

23 July 2011

Obama Spoke To Me In a Dream Last Night

Well, actually, he didn't, which is precisely the point.

We got iPhones a few months ago, and I have to admit, they are fairly miraculous. They have made many things easier and more fun, and I am thoroughly enjoying having one. But when my husband asked me the other day if I like my phone, I gave him the honest, if hard to admit, response: "I do like it, but I need to have a different relationship with it."

Apparently, Obama and my subconscious agree.

Last night, I dreamt that I was watching my daughter play in a soccer game against a team on which played one of the Obama girls. This was the coolest thing ever! There we were, on a great expanse of green grass, on a lovely sunny day, watching girls play the Beautiful Game, and there was Mr. President, looking casual, jaunty and charming, watching his daughter as well.

I was so excited! I might get to talk to him, to shake his hand, to ask him why John Boehner is such a tool!

But first, I thought, I have got to Facebook this!

So I stepped away from the field for a moment to try to compose some super witty post about Obama and me hanging out, but my phone was being testy, and the Facebook ap was being weird, and I couldn't get the post to go up. It was supremely frustrating. I tried for awhile, editing my thoughts, trying to come up with the best little phrase to capture the moment...and the ap was failing me big time.

Forget it, I thought. I can either post about being here with Obama, or I can go hang out with Obama. I'm opting for the latter! But as I turned back to the field and the other parents watching the game, I saw his motorcade pulling away. He had to leave before the end of the game (maybe to go over to Home Depot to find a new color of paint for the debt ceiling, since it seems like we might be stuck with the one we have). I watched him drive away and felt like such a fool for missing my chance.

Gone. Gone. I didn't get to talk to the Leader of the Free World, because I had my stupid nose stuck in my stupid iPhone, trying to compose some stupid FB post. Stupid is as stupid does.

If I had one of these, I'd have to edit it...

...to say Soccer Mama missed Obama.

So yes, I need a different relationship with my iPhone. Clearly, it's getting in the way of some IRL moments. Obama may not be in my living room, but six other people are, and they might just be more important in my little sphere of existence.

At least I don't need a professional to interpret this one for me.

* * *

22 July 2011

7 Quick Fruits and Vegetables: Volume 32

Friday day is in our grasp
So long as we have hands to clasp.

Clasp your hands in thanksgiving that another Friday has arrived!

For today's 7 Quick Takes, I am glorifying the fruits and vegetables in my garden, because I need to eat more of them. I am locked in a dysfunctional relationship with carbohydrates, and I'm trying to create corrective eating experiences in order to change that state of affairs. Maybe these photos will inspire me to eat some green. Maybe you too!








* * *

I'm just happy that today's 7 Quick Takes got me out of the house and into the lively, bright, fragrant, sunny garden this morning with my camera. Happy Friday and weekend, everyone!

* * *

Please visit our 7 Quick Takes host at Conversion Diary and sample the links of other Quick Takers!

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20 July 2011

Life's Persistent Questions

(with a nod to Guy Noir)

One Mother's Persistent Questions about Life

1. Why. Are. Children. SO. Loud?

2. Is calm, detached parenting even possible? Do the "experts" who recommend it have children?

3. Will a pre-teen truly die of embarrassment if someone sees the traces of un-rubbed-in sunscreen on his face?

4. Is screaming at kids really all that bad? Isn't it possible, what with the way parenting advice evolves, that a generation from now, the new best practices in parenting will include screaming early and often, thus demonstrating that I was way ahead of the curve back in 2011?

5. Do I have the kind of kids who will grow up to be geniuses, who will make important contributions to the quality of human life, in spite of spending way too much time in front of TV and computer screens? Oooo, let's hope so.

6. Is it fair to characterize the parent-teen relationship as one of mutually perceived intentional torture?

7. When four of my kids suddenly need new soccer cleats all at the same time, does this mean I am being punished for some misdeed? It feels like that's what that means. And isn't there some other way for me to atone for my sins besides shelling out a gazillion dollars on shoes I don't get to wear?

8. When it comes right down to it, which one will I choose: coffee or my health?

9. Do you need to have "the talk" with one of your kids? This one I have an answer for! Well, Julia Sweeney does, and it's probably more of a cautionary tale than a how to, but well worth the watching, so here you go:

For my part, I will carry on and keep up the search for answers to life's mysteries. The search is at least half the fun, right?

* * *

16 July 2011

Thank you Pia, Abby, and the entire WNT!

On the eve of the World Cup Final, I'd like to take a moment to say thank you to Pia Sundhage and all of the amazing women who are getting ready to take on Japan for the Championship tomorrow. You have thrilled and entertained us, you have kept us on the edges of our seats, you have, literally, brought tears to our eyes with your fabulous victories these past few weeks.

I have five kids who play soccer, three of them girls who watch you play and see themselves in 15 years. You are showing them how to be the toughest, most committed athletes possible, and you are showing them the true meaning of teamwork, sportsmanship, dedication, and perseverance. You are raising them right!

I shamelessly used you the other day, when I was cajoling and coercing the girls into cleaning the living room. After pouring on the commands pretty thick, I heard one girl say: "Why are you pressuring us so much?!?!?!" My response was, of course: "Pressure makes us."

And then Pia, dear Pia, after all that pressure, you serve up the perfect antidote! Slow down, chickadees, enjoy the ride.

Go Pia! You are one of the most amazing and inspirational coaches we've ever seen.

We will miss the World Cup competition when it's over, but you better believe we'll be keeping up with all of you. Our greatest hope is that the attention you are getting this week will translate into greater and greater support for women's soccer all year round. Play the beautiful game, ladies: we will be watching.

Good luck tomorrow -- three girls, two boys, and a couple of parents out here in California are getting comfortable on the edges of our seats and are ready for a fantastic ride!

* * *

15 July 2011

7 Quick Delights: Volume 31

Seven things have brought me delight this week, so I thought I'd share them for today's 7 Quick Takes. Looking for a pick-me-up? Seeking some inspiration? Try these!


Powerberries. Grabbed these on an impulse buy and they are sooooooooo good. Yum. Get some. You'll thank me.


Midnight in Paris. Knowing nothing about this movie except that it's a Woody Allen film that is getting good reviews, we went to see it the other night. What fun! I'm pretty sure I missed some of the great cultural references, but the ones I got tickled my fancy. Do you ever wish you lived in some better, more golden, or simpler time? Go see this movie!


Massage. Oh my. A huge thank you to Nicole for treating me to a fabulous afternoon at the Claremont Spa yesterday. We had hour long massages, we enjoyed the nine-head showers, the deluge shower, the steam room, the whirlpool hot tub, the cucumber-spiked water, the comfy robes, the quiet halls, the mini-vacation from life and bills and children and work and traffic and laundry. I had a moment of inspiration, being surrounded by all that beauty: this space was so lovely that it made me wish for lovely spaces...which is sort of impossible because my small, cramped house is usually inhabited by savages...the contemplation of which, while I was lying face down on the massage table being transported to another reality, brought the following adapted song lyric into my head:

If you can't be...in a space you love...honey, love the space you're in... love the space you're in... love the space you're in... love the space you're in... dit dit dit dit dit dit DIT DIT!

A massage is definitely a luxury that many people cannot access. But if you are given that chance, grab it.


Kid Free Days. We had a few this week. The space and the silence that kid free days open up are gifts from heaven. I highly recommend stashing your kids somewhere and doing your best to completely ignore them for a few (or several) days. Marriages need this, people need this, children need this. A win-win all the way around. (Except maybe for the exhausted grandparents who made this possible: thanks guys!)


Hi, my name is Monica, and I'm a Facebooker. "HI MONICA!"

Being a facebooker, I found Jennifer Kahn's profile of Jaron Lanier, in the current New Yorker, very interesting. Find a copy and read it. The article's full title is "The Visionary: A digital pioneer questions what technology has wrought." His ideas are very interesting, and important, I think, for those of us who use social media to grapple with.


Curiosity. Life is more interesting when we are interested in life. And people. And ideas. And history. And everything around us. My dad once gave me a really good piece of advice. When I was younger, I was always nervous about meeting new people. He told me to take the focus off of myself and turn it on the person I was meeting, to ask him questions about himself and get him talking. Not only did following his advice dispatch my nervousness forthwith, but it also has proven to me, time and time again, that people are very interesting and that I can learn a lot from listening to them. Sometimes I learn that the person I'm talking to is a self-important windbag. Sometimes I learn that she has just written a book, not the one she thought she would write, and then we have a really interesting conversation about books and writing.

Curiosity may kill the cat, but I think it just might keep the rest of us alive.


Farm land and old barns. I love them. I did a fair amount of driving this week, getting my kids to their vacation destinations, and I drove through the lovely rolling fields of California's farmland. I highly recommend that everyone take a drive out into the country and find a barn to look at. It just does the heart good.

My six year old told me that she thinks such sights are boring...but maybe someday, an old barn will remind her of her mom, and how much her mom loves farm land. I think I could be happy if that was my one and only legacy.

* * *

Go visit our lovely host of the original 7 Quick Takes, and clicky-click on some of the other Quick Takers for this week!

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12 July 2011

Storm Before The Calm

A storm is raging in my house today, the storm of cleaning and laundry and trying to make my house a comfortable place to be. The occasion? Usually, the only thing that motivates me to really get this place in shape is the threat of having guests over. This time, the motivation is quite the opposite: starting tomorrow, we will have a kid free home for almost three days. It's not much, but we'll take it, after almost 13 years of non-stop kid care.

I do not want to spend my kid-free time cleaning or doing laundry. Neither do I want to try to relax in a house that needs to cleaned, amid laundry that needs to be done. So, today is the day. The day to make a difference.

So I'm cleaning, and writing haiku, and ignoring Lady E and Little T. Haiku and coffee will get me through to freedom.

* * *

Hard and lousy work
To make home a pleasant place
Let me get there soon.

* * *

Grabby hands bind me,
Keep me from my busy day.
Wait: it's just laundry.

* * *

Small things seems too plain.
Blah, next to NPR talk.
I'm making people.

* * *

You seem my savior.
Then I have too much of you.
Coffee: life, balm, curse.

* * *

Just pick strawberries.
That is your one and only chore.
Two girls: one whole day.

* * *

Keep eyes on the prize.
Fold, tidy, wipe, clear, scour.
The calm is coming.

* * *

08 July 2011

Moms Help Each Other Get Through Some Tough Situations

Like packing children for a trip.

The other day, a college friend of mine sent me a text about how difficult it was to get her son packed for a week away at camp. This friend and I text frequently, often to vent about how much the kids we love so much are driving us crazy. I have only recently become a texter: i'm late to the game, but making up for lost time. How did I live without texting? It keeps me connected to my peeps! I get dating updates from one friend, trade parenting woes with another, and make plans with people on the fly. It's awesome. (I know, everyone knows this already: like I said, I'm late to the game.)

And as for my college friend, many a text conversation with her has made me laugh enough to get me through a difficult evening. Here's the one we had tonight:

My turn for packing hell.

Excuse me for a moment, nut Joey
seems possessed and out of control.


He's screaming and hitting his sister.


Packing up 6 people with no one
listening to me: the definition of SUCKS.

Me at my most ineffectual.

And I really want to scream and hit him.


OK...yes. Back to you.

Have a glass of wine instead.

Don't ask them to help.
Too frustrating.

Just pack them and be happy
they are going to grandmas.

In fact, sing a merry tune
as you pack for them.

What, let them watch tv while
I kill myself packing??????

I'd kill them! I'd go into a
fit of rage and lose it!!!!

Hmmmmmmm. Yeah, that
won't work.

Lola, of course, packed all
her stuff in 10 mins.

I want 5 lolas.

The rest of them suck.

Why are you packing for 6?
Aren't only 3 going?

Six of us driving down and
spending one night; leaving three
there until next Friday!

Can't you leave all 5?!

And the two younger ones are
going to the other grandmas
for three days next week.

*happy dance*!


Can Joey go too?

No: I don't accept hitters and screamers.

Joey is that kid that if you get
mad at him, it pisses him off more.

Well, you're really selling him!

He's bugging me this afternoon.
And I even took him to the zoo today.


Sorry about packing hell.


Thanks. I should go pull on my
hip boots and wade into
the laundry room...apparently
they really won't pack themselves.

Can you help each of them one at a time?

The boys went out to the car to
find the dog leash but they couldn't
so now they're just sitting
there honking the horn.

I want to strangle them.

Of course.

I feel bad for the neighbors.

K, I'm going to give u updates from
hell as the evening wears on...

Please do...

much later

Why did I draw the short straw?
Rick is, supposedly, working,
or something like that.

I'm up to my elbows in socks, and
the littlest just came into the
garage to announce that NONE
of the other ones are in the house.
They have apparently scattered.
Only two had permission to walk the dog.

Where the hell are the other two??

Now the littlest wants to know if
she can ride her scooter in the house.

No scooters in the house.

I think she smells weakness:
knows I'm on edge and
enjoys pushing.

and a little later...

Now Lola is going INSANE bc we
just got confirmation that grandma
has ESPN and she can watch the US
women play Brazil on Sunday morning.

I forget how loud she can be.

and still later...

I just told Jim he needs to
work on his parenting
skills...it didn't really go over well.

Gee, that's hard to figure!

In between loads of laundry, I finished
reading to kill a mockingbird to the kids
tonight...got all teary at the end
and really freaked 'em out.

Still have miles to go before I sleep...

* * *

And that, my friends, is how I survived packing my kids to go to grandma's house. Thanks college friend!

07 July 2011

Three Items

I can't believe it's already Thursday the 7th! It's a good thing I didn't sign up for NaBloPoMo this month: it would have been an epic fail if I had.

So today, I have three items for everyone. First, check out KIDS BOWL FREE. I just signed up all my kids for free bowling coupons for the entire summer -- through October, as a matter of fact. We could go bowling for free every day if we wanted to. That's a lot of funky shoes and stale air right there! My kids are going to looooooooooove this. Go ahead, sign up. It's really free. We start today.

Second, a command. You MUST find a way to listen to This American Life's episode entitled Act V. It just might change your life. You can listen to it here (it's 1 hour long), or download the MP3 from TAL's website.

And third, a shout out to Mama Mama Quite Contrary, whose response to my last 7 Quick Takes made me laugh out loud. Here's what she said in response to my wondering why I feel antipathy towards amusement parks:
Sister, you are speaking my language about amusement parks. I HATE them. They are expensive, manufactured fun and if I wanted to hang out in a crowd full of sweaty people, I'd just climb into bed with my kids.

Yay Mama Mama!

* * *

That's it. That's all I got today. Too busy driving people around in order to achieve the Best. Summer. Ever.

* * *

01 July 2011

7 Quick Takes: Volume 30

7. Quick. Takes. Here we go.

~ 1 ~

My sister has a friend who is a breast cancer survivor. This women, when comparing having teenagers to having cancer, said that having teenagers is definitely harder. No wonder I feel like barfing most of the time these days.

~ 2 ~

If I didn't have my little ball and chains (two balls, three chains), this is what I would try to do this Fall: The Transom Story Workshop. But I'm not bitter. Really. Even though Ira Glass and Elise Spiegel are living the life I'm supposed to lead. Enjoy, guys. Do great things. Which, of course, you are already doing.

~ 3 ~

Saturation: the point at which a substance cannot absorb any more particles, matter, liquid or additions of any kind. I reach that saturation point earlier and earlier these days. When I get there, I eject small children from my lap like I'm launching missiles, I swat small hands away from my face like I'm battling horseflies, and my threshhold for MOMMY MOMMY MOMMY is knee high to a grasshopper. Poor kids. Then again, it is their fault. Poor me.

~ 4 ~

Recommended reading: A Tree Grows in Brooklyn. I love the way this writer develops her characters. They do small, stupid things and fall far short of virtue, but the girl who watches their every move loves them completely. Her love for them serves as a good reminder to trust in the basic humanity of people, to be patient and forgiving with the people we love who disappoint and frustrate us.

Not that I have anyone like that in my life.

~ 5 ~

I have a friend who works at The Paper Source. This isn't about her, even though she is awesome. It's about the store's tag line, which I saw as I drove by the other day and which I probably would have missed if I didn't always try to peek in and see if Nicole is working. "Do something creative everyday." I think I'll try it. I have a gazillion creative ideas that I never get to act on, and my kids hardly even know how much I like to make art: they think my relationship with art consists pretty much of being their biggest patron. Not true: it's time to bring out the inner artist. First up will be the ceramic mugs I've had for a year and a half and have been meaning to paint for the kids. They have stopped believing that it will ever happen.

~ 6 ~

Why do I feel such intense animosity towards places like Six Flags Discovery Kingdom? Anyone else out there spiteful towards amusement parks? I didn't have any amusement park trauma in my childhood. I just hate them. Curious.

~ 7 ~

Life moves too fast. Sometimes, I get overwhelmed just by watching people and life go by on a busy street. Sometimes, I feel like I can't keep up with the crazy pace of life, the new restaurants opening and then shutting down in the strip mall, the politicians getting caught doing dumb things, the inches children acquire over night. I see the way things are ever changing and sometimes, it makes me a little panicky.

All we can do is get up each morning, cleave to the ones we love and do our best. And each day I get a little older, I realize how difficult and powerful it is to do just that.

I'm holding on and hoping for the best. Finding things like this helps:

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Visit our host, congratulate her on the recent birth of her fifth child, and check out the links of the other Quick Takers.