30 July 2012

Rachael Ray?

I have one comment.

30 minutes my ass.

I do love the yogurt-cucumber-cumin sauce, though.  Fish tacos....mmmmmm.

* * *

24 July 2012

Spelling Lessons

When you have older siblings, you hear certain words and phrases earlier than you should, certainly before you understand what they mean.  And then, it's quite possible that you will try to use them.

Case in point.

My 7 year old, with my phone in hand, composing what she thought would be a fun little text to Daddy:  "Mommy, how do you spell screw?  I already know how to spell you!"

Only if you sign your name to it, sweetie.

* * *

23 July 2012

Willie's Got Some Looooooong Fingers

Say what you will about the decline of Western Civilization.

All I know is that when I logged on to Facebook this morning, I saw that a friend of mine had posted one of my favorite Shakespearean resources, the Shakespeare Insult Kit, which I have posted about before and from which I got the following fabulous insult: "Thou reeky, onion-eyed malignancy!"  I cannot wait to come across someone I can use this on.

Next, I piled the kids into the car and carted two of them off to the first day of Shakespeare Camp.  In two weeks time, my 13 year old will be in a production of Hamlet, and my 10 year old will be in a production of King Lear.

Next, I went off to work a few cities away, where my organization is sharing space with a summer camp, and found my office space occupied by a bunch of teenage thespians at -- you guessed it -- Shakespeare camp.

Will Shakes is everywhere, man.

Did you know he gave us these (and more) common phrases?

dead as a doornail
all of a sudden
fight fire with fire
good riddance
green-eyed monster
in a pickle
love is blind
vanish into thin air
too much of a good thing
up in arms
wild goose chase
...and many, many more

I love the fact that these words, that his words are continuing to reach across the centuries and shape our culture and our kids.  Once again, Shakespeare is in my village.

For me, this is such stuff as dreams are made of.

* * *

22 July 2012

Thank You Linda Wertheimer!

We have two teen boys.  Well, one teen and one almost teen.  Teen culture is rampant around here, complete with flat brimmed baseball hats (ick), bad music, and hip lingo du jour.

Most of the time, I feel like I'm doing battle against pop culture, trying to show my kids the bigger picture, coaxing them away from questionable influences, keeping them aware of other ways of being in the world.

This morning, NPR helped me out.  Of course, the stories on NPR are interesting and go a long way towards educating my kids about what's going on in the world.  But I had no idea NPR could also actually change their behavior!

Today, during the Sunday Puzzle with Will Shortz, Linda Wertheimer was describing to one of the listener-players what he would get for playing the puzzle game, and she referred to the prizes as "NPR swag."

And from the backseat of the minivan, one of the boys piped up:

"I'm never using the word swag again ever."

NPR: making teen culture uncool for 41 years.

Thanks Linda!

* * *

21 July 2012

Farmer T

We are chicken sitting.

A neighbor down the street is away for a couple of weeks, and since we never go anywhere, we are taking care of her chickens.  This means fresh eggs for us!

Confession?  I inwardly groan every morning when it's time to go "do the chickens."  I described the whole thing to a friend like this: "Yet another thing I should not have said: 'Sure!  That sounds fun!' to."


Little T is thoroughly enjoying it though.

Will this exposure to local chickens just complicate my life?  Am I going to be dealing with Pleasemommypleasemommypleasemommycanwehaveourownchickenspleasemommypleeeeeeeese?

Oh dear.  I hope not.  I'm not quite ready to walk my local food talk in that particular way.

But oh-so-yummy were the fried eggs we had for breakfast!

* * *

20 July 2012

I'll See Your Stubborn and Raise You A Little T

Two sisters were wrestling on the couch, and the fun was getting out of control.  I told them multiple times to stop.  They ignored me.  I warned them that one of them was going to get hurt.  They ignored me.

WHAM!  The 5 year old slammed her head hard against the couch frame, and looked at me with equal parts fury, panic, sheepishness, and pain.

My mistake: My immediate reaction was not one of sympathy but of annoyance.  "Didn't I JUST tell you that you were going to get hurt?  Didn't I JUST SAY TO STOP???"  Within about 5 seconds, I was feeling bad for her throbbing head and trying to coax her into my arms for a little love.  She was having none of that.

She spent the next 10 minutes sobbing in a heap on the couch, holding her head, and screaming: "I MEANT TO DO THAT!  I MEANT TO DO THAT!"


* * *

7 Quick Takes, Volume 55

Friday, I hardly know ya'.

Here are 7 Quick Takes for today; please visit the original and leave 7 Quick Comments for the posters participating today.


Happy brains work better!  Visit The Hawn Foundation to learn more about an excellent program designed to create optimistic classrooms, mindful children, and brighter futures.  This incredible organization is where I'm working now, and I'm very proud to be part of its efforts to help kids lead happier, healthier lives.

So much of what The Hawn Foundation does resonates with my aspirations for my own children and speaks to my ongoing search for ways to promote confidence and hope in them.  I feel very fortunate to be working on issues that are critical to the future of both our society and my own family.


Do you like Shakespeare?  And wineries?  And super cute kids?  Have I got an opportunity for you!

Sonoma Shakespeare and Avalon Players presents
A Midsummer Nights Dream
at Buena Vista Winery in lovely Sonoma
August 9th-12th, 16th-19th, and 23rd-26th • 7 pm
• • • a delightful Shakespeare under the start experience • • •

And three of my kids are in it.

For ticket information, go to Brown Paper Tickets.


One of the biggest challenges we will face with my return to work is feeding people.  Rick will of course do more of the shopping and cooking than he did before, but he is not quitting his job.  He has more flexibility than I do, but we will essentially both be working, leaving no one to be solely in charge of shopping and cooking.  

Plus, I'm in a serious cooking rut.  Can't ever think of anything new to make, and sort of tired of trying new things out on reluctant eaters anyway.  

We're going to have get very creative about what we eat and how we prepare it.  Cooking ahead of time...using the slow cooker...having enough stuff on hand for quick on the go meals.

So the goal is to provide three healthy meals per day, to seven people, that are as locally sourced and organically produced as possible, without breaking the bank or requiring more time than we actually have to give.  

Sounds impossible.  What else is new?  Everything is impossible.  But we do it anyway.

Ideas, people.  I need some good ideas.  Stat.


Evidence that this going back to work thing might be a tougher transition than we all thought.

  1. My 7 year old mused recently: "It's like we don't even have a mom!"
  2. My 10 year old looked at my last night, eyes blazing, and said, of my return to work: "You betrayed us!"
  3. A member of this household has started peeing the bed every night, which we haven't dealt with around here for years.
  4. Another member of this household has already succumbed to neglect.  Yup, one of our fire-bellied toads died this morning, after several hours of desperate last ditch life-saving attempts on my part.  I did not realize that we were out of the live crickets that constituted Bean's diet, nor did my son really clue in to the fact that we hadn't fed the poor little guy in too long.  As a result, as soon as I got home from work today, I presided over a little frog funeral in the backyard.  We buried our beloved pet and I said a few words.  At first, I felt ridiculous, but then I realized I was speaking primarily for my son, who was truly devastated, and it felt like the best and only thing I could do to ease his mind a little.  
  5. We've been out to eat A LOT.  Not good.  See Quick Take #3. 
Let's just say we are still working out the kinks.  Not working out to The Kinks, although that would be fun, just slogging through the maze of our new life until we figure out where everything belongs.  Baby steps.


I recently discovered TED talks.  As usual, I'm late to the party.  I've listened to about 5 or 6 of them, one of which was called 5 Dangerous Things You Should Let Your Kids Do.  We've already let our kids do 4 of them, one of which is to play with knives, as in Own a Pocketknife and Know How To Use It.

Notwithstanding the fact that we've already been to the emergency room for a mishap involving 5 stitches and a Leatherman blade, I completely agree with the premise: Kids can learn how to handle dangerous things and situations, and how to control them, and if they do, they will be stronger, more confident, more capable adults in the future.  If they don't learn how to use a knife at 9 or 10, they're much more likely to hurt themselves with one when they are finally allowed to touch one at age 14 or 15.  Or 37.

My kids recently went to Codornices Park with their dad, and enjoyed a nice long afternoon of hiking, climbing, and falling down.  That night, my son came to me distraught: "I think my Leatherman fell out of my pocket when I slide down the embankment at the Park!"  So bright and early the next morning, he and I ventured back to the park, hiked up behind the slide of death, and found the incredibly steep and slippery non-path that kids like to try to climb up.  My son's attempt ended with him scraping up his calf so badly it looked like he'd laid several strips of raw bacon up and down his leg.  Ick.

Anyway, based on the way he described how he fell, I went behind a tree and pondered the immense thicket of ivy in front of me, extending up the hill at least 10 feet to where his slide began.  I sighed, unhopeful.  And then I looked down, and right there near the bottom of the hill, not two feet from where I stood, was his knife, his very expensive Leatherman, neatly folded into its leather case.

So I guess this means we will continue to let him do dangerous thing #2.  All's well that ends with a big ole knife.


Given that I now have more time by myself in the car, I am becoming absolutely overwhelmed by the interesting things I'm hearing about on NPR and the desire to read or listen to a gazillion books, podcasts, lectures, etc.  Here's a few that are particularly intriguing to me:

  • Why Women Still Can't Have it All, by Anne Marie Slaughter in the July/August edition of The Atlantic Monthly
  • The Neuroscience of Zen, a talk given at City Arts and Lectures in San Francisco on May 21, 2012
  • Bright Lights, No City: An African Adventure on Bad Raods with a Brother and a Very Weird Business Plan, by Max Alexander
  • A Hologram for the King, by Dave Eggers

There are just too many fascinating people in the world doing too many fascinating things to keep up with.  Maybe I'll just go watch Good Luck Charlie with my kids instead.


And finally, three cheers for Pelada!

This engaging documentary replicates the premise of Endless Summer, in which some goofy surfers follow summer across the world in search of the perfect wave.  In Pelada, two likeable young soccer players travel the globe looking for the world's game: pickup soccer.  There is significantly less goofiness, but there are plenty of cultural exchanges and interesting moments, and this movie will truly appeal to any young soccer player in your household.  And probably older ones too.  And probably people who don't play soccer.  So, everyone.  I leave you with the trailer:

Happy Friday all!

* * *

17 July 2012

Never Enough

I am a list maker.  But since starting my new job, I have fallen away from the habit, at least in my non-working life.  It's discombobulating, this traveling through the day willy nilly, not knowing what I really want or need to get done.  So the other day, I made a HUGE list, of all the things large and small that are occupying my brain these days.  Some are straight-up "to-do" items, some are things to think about, some are more like long term goals.  There's a random shopping list of things we need...there's some parenting advice I'd like myself to take...there's ideas for organizing our household more effectively.  Here's a gander at my big ole list of brain stuff:

Tonight, after what was on the whole a pretty good day, I found myself wondering what exactly I had managed to do.  I looked at that big ole list, and discovered that I could cross exactly nothing off of it, after waking up 16 hours ago.

That was rather distressing.  So I did what compulsive list makers everywhere do: made a to-do list of things I had already done.  I made a To-Done list.  Here's what I came up with in about 5 minutes; I may have forgotten to include a few things:

  1. Cleaned out the fridge.
  2. Cleaned and packed up Katy's tent, so I can return it.
  3. Vacuumed out one of our living room chairs.  That was scary.
  4. Did 3-4 loads of laundry: folded AND put away.
  5. Helped the girls with their chicken-caring-duties for our neighbor who is out of town.
  6. Made potato-zucchini latkes.
  7. Participated in a 1 hour conference call with the Board of Directors for my new job.
  8. Worked for 2.5 hours on a grant proposal, also for my new job.
  9. Took my daughter's lovey-blankey to a seamstress to have it sewn up.  Returned at the end of the day to pick it up, so Little T would have it at bedtime.
  10. Did the graphic design/layout of the first 6 pages of the 2013 Garden Guide booklet.
  11. Finished a little bit (45 minutes?) of administrative work for a local maintenance gardener I am helping out for the summer.
  12. Made sure the kids did their daily chores.
  13. Picked apples from one of our trees -- so yummy! 
  14. Cleaned the kitchen.  Twice.
  15. Dug a sliver out of a child's finger.
  16. Updated Rick's work calendar and returned a couple work phone calls and emails for our garden design company.
  17. Went to Staples to buy printer cartridges and highlighters.
All of that and I didn't have a damn thing to cross out on the list I thought was pretty comprehensive.  I'm sort of in shock at what I got done today.  Truly -- I'm not usually this productive.  AND!  I didn't let the kids watch TV or play Wii at all today, so I was interacting with them all day long -- except for while I was working at the local internet cafe.  AND! I didn't even yell at anyone today!  Seriously, I am ON FIRE.  This would be a good time for me to tackle things like solving world hunger or finding a cure for cancer, don't you think?

I attribute some of this crazed productivity to the three cups of coffee I had this morning and the very large latte I had at 4pm as I started working on my grant proposal.  I will weep real tears the day a doctor tells me to cut caffeine out of my diet.  

But the sad part of this day is that I will still lay my head on my pillow with more to do than I woke up with.  The to do list always grows: I always add more things than I cross off in a given day.  It's never enough.  Never.

I'm feeling quite reflective about that.  Enough for what?  Enough to be happy?  No...I can be happy without crossing stuff off my to-do list.  Enough to have a nice cold beer at the end of the day?  Well of course!  Enough to put the list away?  Um, no.  I can be proud of how much I got done today, but it's not enough for me to look forward to tomorrow as a day to relax and not think about crossing things off.  If I decide to relax for a day or an afternoon, I do so knowing that I will pay the price of the list getting even longer during the time I spend napping, walking the dog, playing with the kids, or reading a book.

That doth suck.

But I'm still proud of myself for today.

Not least of which for #18: Wrote a blog post.

* * *

Good Policy

Grandparents have all the good ideas.

Little T emerged from Papa's studio on Sunday, came over to me with a stumped look on her face, put her hands out to her sides with the palms facing up and announced:

Papa doesn't answer WHY questions!

And off she went.

Do you know what this means?  It means he found the off button!

Unfortunately, it's a single user button.


* * *

ps: I did ask her if she asked him why.  She just looked at me like "Really?" and walked away disgusted.

14 July 2012

Today, I Am Grateful For...


* * *

Even on my worst days (and not that this is one of those days or anything), I am keenly aware that I have much to be grateful for.  My kids have much to be grateful for.  We are truly and richly blessed, even if we all gripe too much.

But today is special.  This past week, my parents got bicycles for all of my kids.  Two of them got brand spanking new ones, and three got refurbished ones from my garage, complete with new paint jobs, tires, chain guards, and whatever else they needed.  We get to drive up to Sonoma tomorrow and pick up the two new ones, and then all five will be riding in style.

All week long I've thought about how lucky these kids are.  The bikes...the mid-week trip to the beach with dad...the professional soccer game with mom last night...the milkshakes and art classes and shakespeare plays.

So you'll understand if I get a little put off by any sign of complaint or entitlement when I ask them to clean their rooms or do chores.  Typically, such behavior is a hot button issue for me. As soon as the whining begins, my rage response kicks in and I go all (figuratively) Jackie Chan on my offspring.  It just makes me crazy that after all these years and all those lectures, they still do not help out without hefty doses of bratty behavior.

Don't get me wrong: I know full and well that I am partly to blame for the way they behave.  Somewhere along the line, I got it wrong and have been paying the price and trying to fix it ever since. And this morning, I swerved into getting it right.

I announced to the boys that they needed to clean their room, and the vitriol began in earnest.  And suddenly, with clarity and calm, I knew exactly what to say.

Guys, here's how I want this to go.  I want you to clean up efficiently and without fighting.  I don't want it to take all day.  I don't want you to act like it's unfair that you have to do this.  I want you to think about all the things you have to be grateful for, and then I want you to clean your room with a simple, respectful attitude. 
And if you can't do that, then I'm not taking you to Sonoma to pick up your bicycles tomorrow.  You have too much to be grateful for to behave badly.  And I'm not going to put up with it.

It worked like a charm.  Less than 45 minutes later, their room is cleaner than they've ever gotten it, and they didn't fight once with each other or with anyone else.

They'd be good boys if there would be somebody there to buy them a bicycle every minute of their lives.  (Not quite Flannery O'Connor, but close...)

* * *

Grandma and Papa,  we are all so grateful for your kindness and generosity.  I, especially, am grateful for the invaluable gift of leverage.

* * *

11 July 2012

Indignation and Glee and Hypocrisy

Finally home after a long day, I pulled the leftover paella out of the fridge, mouth watering in anticipation.

Then I took a look, and my indignation flared.  How dare she go through here and pick out all the chorizo!  

She would be my 10 year old epicurean, and she's been known to raid a dish for tasty shrimp and juicy sausage.  Once, she sat with Rick and I, and while the two of us bantered on in some conversation, she selected 30+ pieces of shrimp out of our paella pan, piling them up on the bench next to her and then slipping away to watch a movie with her siblings, a small bowl of pink and white jewels by her side.  We figured it out too late.

So when I first looked at our leftovers, I was not pleased.  I was down right affronted.  However, on closer inspection, I saw plenty of dark red disks nestled in the luscious saffron rice, and my disappointment turned to glee!

What did I do next?  I mined that sucker for as many bites of chorizo as I could find.  Whoever might be next to these leftovers will miss out.  Big time.

* * *

10 July 2012


So....I've gone back to work.

Some things I've realized:
  1. Coming into the house at the end of the day requires approximately the same amount of energy as powering a small nation.
  2. Using my brain in a new way all day long is a strange and wonderful experience.
  3. I really, really need a new wardrobe.
  4. I really, really need a new haircut.
  5. There are TONS of chores around my house that I have been doing that my kids can and should be doing.
 * * *

My kids, I'm sure, have their own take on my return to work.  I hesitate to ask, because I'm not sure I want to know the answer.  My 7 year old daughter's unsolicited commentary on our new state of affairs?

"It's like we don't even have a mom!"

Blacking out now.  Will return momentarily. 

* * *

01 July 2012

From Across The Room

Across a crowded church hall, over the heads of families eating a celebratory dinner at the close of bible camp, amidst the noise of people laughing and talking, I watched my 13 year old son greet and hug some very dear friends.  And I watched him let Grandma Nati ooh and aah over him, I watched him meet the new baby, I watched him answer questions and smile and nod.

This is the same 13 year old with whom I have been clashing of late.  The same one who shakes his fists at heaven and demands to know why, WHY, he got stuck with these two for parents.  The same one in whose name I shake my fists at heaven, desperately wondering if he will ever be a responsible, contributing member of society.

* * *

The family he was talking to is really my children's second family.  14 years ago, heavy with him, my first child, we interviewed potential daycare providers, anticipating my return to work after an upcoming 3 months of maternity leave.  Goodness gracious, were we clueless then.  We searched the internet for how to select a daycare and printed out lists of suggested questions to ask.  We went in blind, not knowing the first thing about safety or infant development or sleep schedules.  At our first two appointments, we diligently asked the questions and took notes of their answers.  We left those two providers not feelin' it.  They gave all the right answers, but something was missing.  

Then we went to Nora's door.  We walked in and felt the love.  I tossed the list, and never once questioned the decision to let this loving mother and grandmother take care of the child I hadn't even met yet.

Over the years, I had more babies, and different work schedules, and sometimes no work at all, but through it all, Nora and Nati cared for all five of our kids.  I never once felt a twinge of concern over the care they received, confident as I was that they were showered with love and Peruvian cooking.  

* * *

Two years ago, when Little T started preschool, after 12 years of pulling up to Nora's door, sometimes five days a week, sometimes one or two, my family graduated from daycare and we had to say a kind of goodbye to our second family.  

And two nights ago, I watched a reunion of sorts, with hugs and kisses all around, and much amazement at the growing of children, and much cooing over a new baby that has made Nati a great-grandmother.  As I watched from a distance, my eyes and heart filled.

I turned towards the dance floor, and saw a mom with a small boy in her arms, about 2 years old, tow-headed and giggling.  All of the sudden, I was watching myself, with my first born, holding a sweaty bundle of joy and energy, and spinning on a wooden floor.  

I turned back to the reunion, and watched that same sweaty bundle of joy, a whole lot taller and with a whole lot more hair, charming the socks off of our Peruvian family.

He's a teenager now, so I worry quite a bit.  I worry because we seem to fight daily over things like chores, getting out of bed, fighting with his siblings, keeping his room just this side of a FEMA site, homework, walking the dog, and the list goes on.  Sometimes, it feels like the fighting is all there is, and that is the heart of why I worry.

But watching him from across the room, I caught a glimpse of who this young man is and tossed the list of things to worry about.  We -- my husband and I, and our Peruvian family -- have raised him right and well.  What a joy it will be to watch him from across many more rooms in the years ahead.

* * *