31 March 2012

Moo Saves the Day

It's been a wild, wet day here in the San Francisco Bay Area.  A day with a few teen/parent clashes.  A day of locking the keys in the car.  A day of pulling weeds in between rain showers.  A day of disappointing soccer game cancellations.

I arrive at the end of the day tired, and a little bewildered by the craziness that is my life.  I'm feeling a little low, a little regretful, but I can't say of what.  I feel a certain mopey malaise creeping over me as I drag my sorry self up to bed.  Sigh.  Whimper.  Whaaaaaa.

And there on my pillow is this:

And inside the card (on which, if you look closely, is painted the word 'love' in silver puffy paint) is this:

And inside the box is this:

A heart shaped rock, found in the garden and painted just for me.

If you are ever feeling a little underappreciated, or a little ineffectual, or a little weary of the demands of daily life, let me just say that having someone thank you for their life, their awesome life, really helps.

Her nickname is Moo; her gifts are invaluable.

Going to bed peaceful and happy now.

* * *

30 March 2012

7 Quick Takes: Volume 52

We're very very busy and we've got a lot to do
And we haven't got a minute to explain it all to you
For on Sunday Monday Tuesday there are people we must see
And on Wednesday Thursday Friday we're as busy as can be
With our most important meetings and our most important calls
And we have to do so many things and post them on the walls.

This song, Busy Busy Busy, by Sandra Boyton, sorta captures our lives of late.  Barely time to stop and breathe.  (Do you know Philadelphia Chickens?  Oh, you must!)

So for today's Quick Takes, I bring you the antidote to being too busy.  Here are seven things that have made me smile over the past week or so.   Please visit Jen, our 7QT Host, and sample the links of other QT-ers.


Fun with schoolwork!


Found one late night...


Close up of our 4th First Communion banner




More creativity.


Cousins playing music together


Um, hello?  Weren't you just born like five minutes ago?

Find the things that make you smile.  Never be too busy for that.

* * *

20 March 2012

Ah, Spring!

The poet Mary Oliver has been popping up around me lately, in conversations and things overheard, on the web and from my bookshelf.  This morning, she popped up on The Writer's Almanac, with a lovely poem perfect for the beginning of Spring.  Listen: the poem comes at the end of the Almanac.

Happy Vernal Equinox!

* * *

17 March 2012

Blame It On Lego Man

I think I finally figured out why we go through toilet paper so fast!

I happened upon this scene late last night, after all the potential culprits had long since been fast asleep.  From the look on his face, it appears this guy doesn't approve of my choice of tissue.

Note to self: stop feeding the legos.

* * *

15 March 2012

Books and Stuff

Yesterday was Dress Like A Book Character day at my kids' school.  We had Ponyboy (The Outsiders), Annabeth (Percy Jackson series), Bean (Ivy and Bean), and Thing One (do I really need to tell you where Thing One comes from?).  And one non-participator.  Thing One was a pathetic case of typecasting.

I tried to get one of the girls to be Scout from To Kill a Mockingbird, but apparently, they just don't do overalls anymore.  That's sad, don't you think?  No one should ever be too cool for overalls.  No one.

Anyway, later in the morning, I listened to Your Call Radio, on KALW, and the topic was childrens' literature.  Among many interesting items, the guests discussed two resources I am sharing here because I think they might be of interest to anyone with kids.

The first is a website, called Guys Read, that is all about promoting reading for boys.  I have two guys here, ages 13 and 11, so I perked up when I heard about it.  My boys are both "sort of readers."  They have both read books that they couldn't put down.  They both love it when we read aloud together as a family.  But they also have many less worthy distractions competing for their attention.  Their iPods (why did we give them those damn things?), their video games (majorly regrettable decision on our part), and beating up on each other, to name a few.  So I'm looking forward to trolling around on the Guys Read site and discovering more ways to help my sons become life-long readers.

The second is the Campaign for a Commerical-Free Childhood.  Now this is a campaign I can get behind.  Their mission is to reclaim childhood from corporate marketers: could there be anything more important than that?  My kids have already heard me rant for years about product placement and cross-marketing: these people are speaking my language!  Did you know that there are over 70 product promotions in the movie The Lorax?  The movie my kids will get to see this weekend?  More than 70 products are using Dr. Suess's environmental love song to get us to consume more stuff.  That's just twisted.  CCFC is sponsoring an upcoming Screen Free Week, April 30-May 6, and if you click on that link, you can download free a guide to help you organize your own.  I can't wait to make my kids do this.  As soon as I break the news, I'm sure they'll be on Google, searching for things like "How can I figure out if I was separated at birth from the mother who really loves me?" or "What to do when your parents are bats."  Should be a real hoot.  Whose with me?

I actually called in to the radio show to tell the guests about Dress Like A Book Character Day and also to recommend two childrens' books: A Time of Wonder and One Morning in Maine, both by Robert McCloskey of Make Way for Ducklings fame.  Then, I actually got on the air, and got all nervous and babbled like an idiot, and repeated myself, and said the same thing over and over, and barely got off the phone with my dignity intact.  But what I wanted to say was this: both of those books are longer than you might be looking for after a long day and with bedtime within spitting distance.  But the time we spent reading those books to our kids when they were little tinies was some of the best time we've spent ever.  So if you haven't tried them, please do.  They both have this magical effect on children, rendering them alert, engaged, calm, and peaceful.

Hmmm...maybe it's time to re-read them to Thing One.

* * *

09 March 2012

7 Quick Takes: Volume 51

Welcome to today's 7 Quick Takes!

This one's got it all: the mafia, great music, politics, and a tried and true recipe for happiness.  Stick around.  Throw a comment my way.  Then go visit Jennifer at Conversion Diary, who hosts 7 Quick Takes when she's not fighting with scorpions and raising a whole bunch of kids.  Actually, she probably does all three at the same time.  Anyway, while you are there, click on the links to some other quick takers.


This American Life.  I love it almost unconditionally.  I would love it completely, if I didn't feel sharp pangs of envy every time I listen.  I want to work for that show.  I should be working for that show.  So they're gonna hafta uproot their entire operation and move out here to Cali so that I can do that.

I used to miss the show all the time because of my kids.  Either I was busy taking them somewhere or I couldn't hear the show over the cacophony of my house.  But lo and behold, there's an app for that.   I purchased the TAL app for my phone, and now I can listen whenever I want.  The other day, I listened to Held Hostage: it was a driveway moment for me if there ever was one.  Here is the link; I hope you click through and listen.


March Madness has nothing to do with basketball, you know.  It has everything to do with the St. Jerome Kindergarten classroom, the best teacher in the world, and the arrival of Leroy the leprechaun.  My youngest child is experiencing the joy of Leroy, just as all my other kids have done.

Every March, Leroy comes to visit the St. J Kindergarten.  He leaves the children notes and small gifts, and sets up a little house in the corner of their classroom.  He plays tricks on them, knocks on doors, leaves shamrocks behind for them when their backs are turned.  It's magical.  And I wish you could see my daughter when she's telling me about Leroy: eyebrows arching off of her head, eyes popping, mouth moving too slowly for the words that want to come out, she is utterly enchanted.  When she is excited, she lisps adorably.  So most of our conversations about Leroy go something like this:
Mom!  Leroy hath a little houth in our clathroom! And he left Mithus Powell a Thamrock when the turned around the anther the phone!  And we get to THEE him tomorrow!  Heth COMING tomorrow! Ithn't that tho awethumb?
I adore Leroy, and I adore Ms. Payne for giving him and a special kind of March Madness to my kids.

Leroy's house.
Isn't that the cutest thing?


The Madness of Leroy is, of course, all about St. Patrick's Day.  We do enjoy March 17th around here.  And to celebrate a wee bit early this year, today I took the kids out of school and we went to hear Danu perform at Zellerbach Hall at UC Berkeley.  They were fabulous!  Traditional irish music is near and dear to my heart.  Two trips to Ireland (the only place I've ever been outside the US), a live music Irish pub in the family for 15 years, a courtship with my now husband marked by Irish festivals, Guinness, bodhrans, and loads of music, and a lifelong wish that I could play the fiddle: these factors combine to make me an Irish music nut job.  Suffice to say, I was carried away today by the beautiful music.  I came away inspired to bring that joyous sound back into my life on a regular basis.  That's right kids: get ready for some fiddle, banjo, mandolin, flutes, penny whistles, accordions, and foot stomping!  Maybe even a didgeridoo!

If there is music playing in heaven, I'm certain there's a bodhran involved.

Today's recommended activity: Go listen to some live music.  Nothing beats live music.  Nothing.


It's the 40th Anniversary of The Godfather!  That movie and the second and third ones are favorites of ours.  They have been on TV lately to mark the anniversary, and we've been watching them like crazy.  Late at night, of course.  The last thing I need is Little T chopping the head off of her hobby horse and hiding it in my bed for kicks.  Our oldest wants to see them; we're holding off a little longer on that...but I do look forward to him being old enough.

And it occurred to me, while watching Part III the other night, that children are a lot like the Mafia.  You know that moment right after you put the kids to bed, and you've got a glass of wine waiting for you, and the house is finally, mercifully, quiet, and just as you sink onto the couch and curl your lips around the edge of the glass, a kid comes padding down from his or her room and needs something?  This is what I always think of:


Political commentary from my son:

Isn't a Newt a swamp lizard?


A recipe for happiness:

Take one child.  Add some late afternoon sunshine.  Mix with a field full of daisies.  Brew for, oh, about as long as it takes for the child's sister's soccer practice to be over.  The result: Total happiness, with a side of daisy chains.


Local folks: The Bringing Back the Natives Garden Tour is coming up on May 6th!  Click through to register: it's free!  This year, there are 43 gardens from El Sobrante to Hayward, from Livermore to Antioch.  Ours is on the tour, as are two others that Rick designed and installed.  The day promises to inspire and motivate you to get out into your yard and mess around in the dirt.

These beautiful Spring days are practically screaming at you to plant something.  Come on the tour to see what's possible! 

07 March 2012

Stopping By My Living Room

My big project deadline is tomorrow.  So not much posting going on these days.  However, while I was busily creating maps in Photoshop today, my trusty radio was on in the background, and I learned, via The Writer's Almanac, that on this day in 1923, Robert Frost's "Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening" was published.  Click on the link above and read how that poem came to be: it's a lovely and bittersweet story.

To celebrate "Snowy's" anniversary, and to get something up on this blog for the first time in several days, I am reposting my twist on Frost's poem, originally posted in May of 2010.  Given that I have been working nonstop for the past two weeks and paying scant attention to my domestic responsibilities, this poem is scarily apropos of my house at the moment.  Enjoy!

Stopping By My Living Room on a Regular Evening

Whose shoes these are I do not care
Their stink and steam do fill the air;
They’ve been here for a week or more
Kicked beneath the comfy chair.

There are backpacks thrown behind the door
And cheerios stuck right to the floor.
Is that a banana, for the love of God?
This disarray is the stuff of lore.

My three year old must think it odd
To see me hone my staff and rod
When spying books and dishes--UGH!
And towels and clothing stained with sod.

She gives her blankey a tighter hug
To warn siblings of the coming thug.
She sees the quaking in my gait
And tries to hide beneath the rug.

It’s chaos that I truly hate.
But with children, chaos is my fate.
The laundry's always in a heap.
The order always little and late.

The mess is scary, dark and deep.
But I have a house to clear and keep.
And heads will roll before I sleep
And heads will roll before I sleep.

* * *

My inspiration.

* * *

01 March 2012

They should be thankful for...

...the fact that they are still drawing breath.

In the last 24 hours:

my daughter left her school uniform sweatshirt out in the rain, which we discovered 10 minutes before we had to leave the house on this cold and wet morning.

my son broke the last remaining glass of a set I once loved.

my other son didn't do his religion homework because his backpack was in the car or his math homework because he left the book at school.  Again.  WTF?

five snack baggies of carrots came home from school in five different lunch boxes, all uneaten.  Two days in a row.

I heard the questions "Why did dad buy HIM a hoodie?  How come I didn't get a new hoodie?" nine times, from two different children.

the kids lost their Friday after school bakery snack for bickering in the car, for the third week in a row, which by the way punishes me too.  Semifreddi's has the best morning buns ever.

I've had to play the "ipod card" 3 times.  That's the card that says: "Do what I say, without complaining, whining, or whacking anyone, or I'm taking your ipod away for a week."

I found myself in the garage at 5am doing laundry for ingrates so that they could go to school in socks that couldn't stand up by themselves.

* * *

They should get down on their hands and knees and kiss the sweet earth in thanksgiving that they are still walking around on top of it.  

* * *