Showing posts from 2008

Oh, I'm Sorry But...

Christmas and blogging do not mix. OMG! I cannot believe the madness that is my life right now! There's biscotti to make, Christmas programs to attend, Christmas pageants to rehearse (two separate events, mind you), angel dresses to come up with, Santa sale money to scrape together so my kids can buy cheap goods for everyone again this year, wreaths to make, rooms to clean, meals to plan, clutter to clear (we are hosting this year), and lots of presents to buy. It's not that we go hog wild with gifts, but come on, with five kids, well, do the math. We are about half way through the shopping thing...with ideas and plans for most of the second half. Of course, it always turns wild at the last minute, but I guess I'll just have to figure out a way to ride through it with a smile on my face. I'm thinking wine. My oldest, usually an absolute BEAST to his siblings, came up with a beautiful idea tonight. After a particularly ugly ride home from school, and lots of y

A Kid's Eye View of Chaos

Today, we got out of the house and on our way to school in spectacular fashion. Last night, we set aside ALL of the school clothes, down to socks for everyone. This may sound super basic, but it's just not something I'm very good at doing. Hence, the usual morning routine includes an incredible scramble for school clothes, tossing clean laundry around in a tizzy, hunting down socks, and generally cursing my complete failure as a laundress. This morning: total bliss. No scramble. No chaos. No mayhem. It was lovely. On the drive to school, I mentioned that I was so happy that we didn't have the usual stress of trying to find socks and shirts and such. My son offered an alternate view: "I like all the chaos. Cuz when we have the chaos, we're late for school!"

My New Entreprenurial Endeavor

Find a way to bottle this: If I could bottle that emotion, I could single handedly bring down the Happy Pills industry. I could become an international hero for figuring out how to bring pure, unadulterated joy to millions. I could end the age old pursuit of Happiness. I guess I'll just have to settle for being witness to such joy instead. Which is pretty awesome itself.

High Art

I'll talk anyone's ear off about my second born's artistic ability. He is truly amazing, and not a day goes by that he doesn't churn out some real gems. He does, I think, see the world with an artist's eye, noticing shapes, colors, relationships, spaces. When he draws, he fills the page, including amazing detail. I've posted at least one of his creations on this blog, of course. On Thanksgiving Day, my sister and I took all the kids to Grand Lake to run off some steam before having to be inside for a long meal. Vincenzo wanted to bring his sketch book, which made me so happy. It made me happy to see him so into drawing that he didn't want to leave the house without a sketch book and some pens. He sat under a tree drawing for awhile. I recorded it for posterity: I took a few photos, and later that evening, while looking at the pictures and getting all misty eyed at just how great my kids are, I noticed another picture of Vincenzo Van Gogh; in thi

Mothers of Daughters

Wow, it's been awhile since I've managed to post anything. And tonight is no different. But I DO have something you must watch, especially if you have daughters. Click here to visit my friend Nicole's blog and to watch a compelling video clip. A must see.

Lost and Found

The other evening, we all walked down to the local park to watch Dad play a little soccer. The park is only two blocks away. Out the front door, one block down to the corner, a left turn, and one short block to the park. Everyone had some mode of transportation. Cenzo had his bike, Lola hers (which she can't actually ride -- that was interesting), Elizabeth a tricycle, and Tallulah one of those little toddler-push-car-things. I brought the stroller, for tired babies on the way home. Rick and Sam were already there. Cenzo wanted to ride ahead of us, and knowing that his dad was already at the park, and that it was two short blocks away, I agreed. He headed off down the street, made the turn just fine, and arrived safely. An hour later, it was time to go home. It was getting dark. Dad and Sam hopped in the truck to drive home, and I made Vincenzo wait until they were on their way before letting him take off on his bike. I made my way home with the three girls and the var

Morning Glories

13 years ago, I wouldn't have known a Morning Glory if it climbed up my leg. But then, we planned a wedding reception in my mom and dad's back forty. The wedding was in June, and during the winter months leading to the big day, we of course were busy with plans and ideas for making the day wonderful. In the back yard, there stood an old broken down shed, one side of which faced the area we wanted to use as a dance floor. It wasn't such an attractive look for a wedding reception, so we decided to plant something to grow up the side of the wall. We chose Morning Glories. One cool morning in March, my mom and I went out and planted the tiny seeds at the base of the shed wall. What an act of faith. I didn't believe that something so simple and small would work, that the vine would grow, the flowers bloom. I wasn't then, nor am I now, much of a gardener; that job is reserved for my dear spouse, who was, I think, born with his hands in the earth. But for me, pl


This morning I heard snippets of Bill Ayers being interviewed by Terry Gross on Fresh Air. I felt the same way I felt listening to Colin Powell describe his reasons for endorsing Barack Obama: Finally! Some intelligent political discourse! If you live in the Bay Area, you have two more opportunities today to listen. It will be on KQED (88.5) at 1pm and on KALW (91.7) at 6pm. If you don't live in the Bay Area, go to the Fresh Air website to locate a local station that will broadcast the show. I really don't know yet what I think of Ayers politics, but I was so impressed with his articulate and thoughtful approach to how politics and social issues are discussed in this country. It gives me hope that the conversation really can change. LISTEN! POST! RESPOND!

Thank You Playground Monitors

Well, it's close to over. The day is almost done. And I didn't do any permanent damage to anyone's psyche, theirs or mine. What helped: Using a gift card to take them out to lunch. Daddy coming to the rescue and getting them out of here about an hour and a half ago. Neighbor dropping off a bottle of wine. It was hard. But I made it. They made it. And they are bringing pizza home with them. The house is still a total mess, and I still have to do school uniform laundry, and my desk still looks like a paper factory sneezed on it, but I have the warm wine fuzzies and no one has asked me a damn thing for an hour and a half. Thank you, playground monitors.

Calling All Playground Monitors

We behave better in public, don't we? None of us has unleashed our loudest scream, our roughest grab, our meanest retort while standing with other moms at the playground, right? We save such behavior for those days when the walls are closing in and the only witnesses are under four feet high. I'm facing one of those days head on right now. It's 8:30 in the morning and I've been up for two and a half hours. I've already initiated three time outs and settled a handful of fights. I've listened to the boys scream at each other and yell at their sisters. I should be doing laundry and washing dishes. I need to have the kids clean their rooms. I should unpack and make room for the new set of dishes we were given. I should clean off my desk so that I can make room for my brain to function. But all I can really do right now is hope that I make it through the next ten minutes without exploding at my kids. Anyone who is not a mother may not understand just how


40 days. 40 nights. 40 thieves. 40 ouncers. 40 lashes. And 40 years. That's what I got. And just in case I have any doubt about what 40 is, my son clarifies: He actually put 40 candles on my cake in this picture! It took him forever, during which time I was not allowed in the dining room/art room. It's kinda hard to serve dinner without going into the dining room. I actually carried food in there and served his sisters with my eyes closed. Silly. But the card is priceless, no? And turning 40 isn't so bad. My eye twitch has slowed down to only 2 or 3 per minute and I haven't heard my bones creak in a good half hour or so and if I wear the right bra, I sorta feel like I'm still 20! Well, you know, 20 but sleep deprived, battered, bruised, broken, chewed up, spit out, stomped upon, climbed over, and really really hoarse. Bring it on world: if five kids can't send me to the looney bin, then I can handle anything.

Beautiful Game, Beautiful Girl

We are a "wee bit" soccer mad in the house. Rick coaches our two boys' teams, and Lola is on a team too. We go to three soccer games each Saturday. We have five practices per week. The boys -- meaning dad + sons -- play in an adults/kids pick-up game on Sunday evenings. Rick often takes the kids to various soccer clinics offered by our league. We watch lots of soccer on TV (international soccer being the one and only reason we have cable). I endure quite a bit of soccer in my living room. We have an unfathomable amount of soccer cleats piled up in our garage. It looks like we could outfit Manchester United, if they all had small feet. These kids got moves, man. Even Elizabeth and Tallulah move the ball around the house with their feet. Lola is emerging as quite a little player, dazzling us with her step overs and her dribbling and her dancing with the ball. When we tell her she's got a game the next day, she makes fists of both her hands, pulls her

Note To Self

Tonight, as Vincenzo was doing his homework, he asked me if I would do it for him. He was being funny. So I said "Nope! But nice try, buddy," as I walked back into the kitchen and the dish-washing extravaganza that was my evening. He hollered into the kitchen: "See, this is why I think parents should drink more beer." Apparently, if I drink more beer, I will forget silly rules like do your own homework and will gleefully fill in the blanks and look up kangaroo rat in the index and read Chapter 5, Lesson 2. Note to self : stay away from the children's homework when enjoying the drink.

May I Have Another?

Right now, I am enjoying a delicious, organic free trade banana ... ... from Peru. Imagine the fossil fuel needed to get this banana into my kitchen. I'm pretty sure that cancels out the organic free trade deal. Good God, this is a screwy world. Pass the oil soaked bananas, please! I sure hope there are enough for everyone!

So Exciting

The election is only a week and a day away. This is the most exciting election I've ever paid attention to. This past weekend, we took the kids to a Bake Sale for Obama , held by a friend of ours in Berkeley. Spending a little money on yummy goodies for the kids was a very small act indeed, in the pantheon of political action, but in my crazy life it's about all I could manage. And I must say, I am quite proud of us, and really do feel like we have done a little something to further the cause. The bake sale raised $350 for Obama -- maybe small potatoes, but potatoes nonetheless. And the thought of hundreds or thousands of people around the country doing the same? Goose-pimply, I say. Inspiring and goose-pimply. I am excited and scared for the election: scared if he wins and scared if he loses, because the racism that exists in this country will not sleep through the next few weeks, and we know from experience that anything can happen. I'm excited, though, to stand

Now Where Did I Put My Xanthum Gum?

The take home message from a great evening with Michael Pollan : Use some freakin' common sense, people! He’s a whole lot more eloquent than that. Here are a few of his “rules” for eating: Don’t eat something that has more than five ingredients on the label, or whose ingredients cannot be pronounced by your fifth grader. Don’t eat anything that won’t rot. If a product has lots of health claims on the label, don’t buy it. (The claims or the product!) Don’t eat something your grandmother wouldn’t recognize as food. Your grandmother didn’t have high fructose corn syrup in her pantry, or lecithin, or Xanthum Gum. She didn’t need to put Xanthum Gum on her grocery list in order to feed her family, and there was no HFCS in her bread. If you’ve read Pollan’s book In Defense Of Food , you’ll remember that he related the story of how then Senator George McGovern tried, in 1977, to develop food guidelines that would address the growing public health concern over saturated fat. Afte

Steve Martin: Source of Hope

Steve Martin was on Fresh Air today. I adore Steve Martin. I hated his humor when I was younger -- his goofy 70's stuff -- but now I appreciate it, and I adore everything he's done since his stand up days. The interview was about those days, because his autobiography called Born Standing Up, about that part of his career, just came out in paperback. Although he was speaking about his 18 years of doing stand up comedy, and my life is anything but stand up funny, I still found a great source of hope in one thing he said: "One can have affection, it turns out, for the war years." Or something to that effect. So in other words, I may someday look back in affection at the years, months, weeks, days, hours, minutes, and seconds I am spending wiping butts, cleaning spills, stepping on corn flakes, laundering socks, cooking for ingrates, soothing tears, brokering peace deals, shopping for groceries, answering questions, serving as a jungle gym, craving silence, hoping


I've already been pregnant several times, but tonight, I asked my husband to keep me barefoot . I adore red wine. I can't sing its praises enough. I pray fervently that "In vino veritas" is true, because life is better with red wine, and if red wine = truth, then my life is both better and more truthful than it seems when I have no red wine trickling through my veins. So thank you Rick, for keeping me in Barefoot. And thank you, Raley's, for putting Barefoot on sale.

A Squat With a View

We took care of our favorite golden retriever this weekend. I was pregnant with Elizabeth when our own beloved golden girl went on to Dog Heaven (fire hydrants plentiful…tennis balls for the asking…humans on call to scratch a furry belly…no leashes…puppy paradise). Elizabeth adores the dog we are lucky enough to care for a few times a year, and is beside herself with excitement when Silka comes to stay; equally distraught when she leaves. But she didn’t know until this last visit just how much there is to discover with a dog around. We were all in the kitchen, living through the usual dinnertime mayhem. Rick and I were trying to make dinner while simultaneously shepherding folks through homework, changing poopy daughters, talking about business tasks, catching up on the day, and keeping sharp objects from the 2-year old. It was noisy and fun and not fun and exhausting and full. Then Rick says, “Mon, look at Elizabeth.” I look down, and there she is, crouching right behind Sil

Flower Power

Thus concludes the 2008 Birthday Season. Thank you for coming.


Proof that there's a little bit of Martha lurking in us all: I made this cake for Samuel, for his 10th birthday party, which we celebrated today at the local pool. I took a big chance, having an October party at a swimming pool, but it worked excellently! First, the weather was great, and second, the rest of the world is on to other activities at this point in the Fall, and we had almost the entire place to ourselves. He chose a Rock and Roll theme; in a few weeks, he is going to be Brian Setzer for Halloween. (Well, if I can find a blond pompadour wig, he is. Any suggestions? Send them my way.) Last week, he decided he wanted to give his friends a song book, filled with lyrics from some of his favorite songs. So he spent lots of this past week typing the lyrics on the computer. Play, listen, pause, type. Next line: Play, listen, pause, type. It took him a long time, but it was definitely a labor of love for him. He came up with some pretty creative lyrics, too! My f

Why Not?

Rick found an essay on the New York Times website tonight, by Verlyn Klinkenborg. (In much the same way I would like to be Nina Totenberg , Rick would like to be Verlyn Klinkenborg.) Klinkenborg is an essayist who writes about The Rural Life for the Op Ed page. He is thoughtful and observant. The essay Rick found is from October of 2007, and it has gotten me thinking. I love writing this blog. I love having this outlet to write about funny things my kids do, or about days that would make me cry if I didn't find a way to laugh , or about ideas that percolate in my head. Even though I love it so much, I recently stopped posting for almost three weeks. This was a particularly stressful time for us, with work and school and work and soccer and work and feeding people taking up most of our time and energy. But other weeks have been as full, and I've still managed to post. So why the break? Well, I think it has something to do with Politeness and Authority . In this essay, Klinken

How Sad

The highlight of my day was this: Driving to the store to buy coffee. It's the only thing I bought, and I was gone for about 20 minutes. I was by myself. It was quiet. It was a little slice of heaven. How sad.

Crime and Shoelaces

I don’t even know how to begin to process this day. Let me start by saying that the reason women should stay home and not work outside the home is that kids need shoelaces in their shoes and someone to comfort them when they are traumatized. And I really needed to be that person today. Yes, daddies can re-lace shoes and provide comfort, but what if I want to be the one who does that? After all, I got to carry them around for nine months (OK, more like 45 months, plus another month for their combined lateness) and I got to bring them forth into this world…and I AM THE MOMMY . There is an episode of Mad About You that takes place right before Jamie gives birth. She and Paul are arguing about who is going to do what after the baby is born, and she basically has this moment of realization where she says, and then says repeatedly as it starts to sink in: “I’m the mommy!” She travels the spectrum from indignation to trepidation to abject fear, as the full scope of those three words

Hide and Seek, Revisited

Today has been a looooooooooooong afternoon at home. Rick and I went into cleaning frenzy mode this morning, and then he had to leave for a meeting and had to take the van to drive other people as well. Which left me here with my offspring and no vehicle. It's been great! They watched a Star Wars movie, they drew and colored for a long while, and then a raucous game of Hide and Seek ensued. Lola got bonked -- hard -- right before her turn to be the seeker, reducing her to tears and almost causing her to quit in 6-year old frustration. To make her feel better, Vincenzo told her that he would leave a clue near where he was hiding: he would hang up his stuffed monkey close by. He is the best hider of the bunch and is always the last to be found. So pretty soon, the three players were running around looking for him together. Imagine listening to your tribe of children running through the house shouting: "LOOK FOR THE HUNG MONKEY! LOOK FOR THE HUNG MONKEY!" These

A Milestone Event

10 years. He's been in my life for 10 years. I've been a mother for a decade. Happy Birthday to my absolutely wonderful and amazing son Samuel. When he arrived on the scene, I hadn't a clue in the world what I was doing: he has taught me everything I know about being a mother. His laughter lights up a room. His questions fire up my imagination and my thoughtfulness. His love of music has rekindled my own. His love of books reminds me of myself at 10 years old. His legs and feet have a way of catching on the smallest item imaginable, and dumping him in a clunky heap on the floor. His sensitivity is a constant reminder to me that all children hear, see, and absorb what happens around them. His love for his baby sister is palpable. His disgust at his other sisters is almost as equally palpable. His tenacity rivals only that of his father's. Actually, he might have his dad beat on that front. His highs and lows bring me right along with him, for every elate

Waving White Flag Now

Here is what I am up against. After numerous attempts to get the kids up and moving for school, I resorted to the timer. "If you're not dressed in 5 minutes, no soccer practice tonight." What ensued can only be described as miraculous, since no one who is as tired and immobile as my children were could possibly object with such force and vitality, were it not for some supernatural force moving within them. They made the 5-minute deadline. Completely dressed, to the shoes. Tied. And then, I had to have an argument with One Son that went something like this: Son: "It's impossible to get dressed in 5-minutes, mom." Me: "But you did!" Son: "But it's not possible. You can't ask us to do that, it's just impossible." Me: "But you did it! In less than 5 minutes!" Son: "It's impossible, mom. Don't ask us that again." A variation on The Sky is Blue, No, the Sky is Green repartee. And this: A

But We Made It On Time

Yes we did. We made it to Mass on time today, no small feat for our family of seven, and not a common occurance either. Today it was our turn to do donuts. This entails buying 6 dozen donuts in the morning and setting up the hall downstairs, getting the coffee started, pouring the juice, loading the trays, etc. Given the extra stop, we had to leave especially early. We made it! And upon arriving at the church, here's what I discovered. First, the baby's shoes were not, in fact, underneath her car seat, as I was sure they were when I was getting her dressed. Second, my oldest son's jeans were filthy. Ground-in grass stains on both knees. Nice. And third, I had forgotten to put underwear on my three-year old. She was wearing a lovely dress and some too-small tights...and no skivvies. No biggee, right? She was wearing tights, after all. Well, too-small tights have a tendency to ride to the floor, which hers did quite a bit, being as how she was extra-squirmy in

Thyroid Disease: The Good Ole Days

Shortly after my third child was born, I started having some strange symptoms. I shook all the time, my hair fell out in clumps, I was constantly starving and ate more food than I could believe, and I had a bunch of other strange symptoms that would be even stranger to post about. But the most amazing symptom of all: I did not need to sleep. Having a weeks old infant, plus two active little boys, most of these symptoms were easy to explain. Hungry all the time? It's the breastfeeding. Hair falling out? Hormonal shift. Shaking hands? Your totally stressed out, lady! And I didn't even really think about how much sleep I wasn't getting, since the baby was waking up every few hours anyway. But the symptom that really bothered me was the shaking. Every morning I would tie the boys' shoes, and wonder why my hands were trembling and why I couldn't get my body to be at rest. I eliminated caffiene, no small thing if you know my coffee addiction (yes, even whil

Life is Too Short for Pleasantries

Apparently, Elizabeth thinks so. Today, I was cuddling with her, and finding her so adorable I was melting. I took her little face in mine and said: "Elizabeth, I love you so much, honey. I love being your mommy." Her response? Well, she smiled ever so sweetly at me, tipped her head to the side and said, "I would like to get a new mommy, though." So I asked her which mommy she would get, and sure enough, she had one in mind: "I would get the Castillo mommy." This is a family we are good friends with, the same family Elizabeth always expresses a preference for when she is in trouble. But now, she'll take them even when surrounded by the love of the mother who bore her. Thankless job indeed.

Today's Task

Note to self: Figure out a way to celebrate Tallulah's birthday instead of marking the end of the two hardest years of my life. They are one and the same, so this is no easy task. She is not helping, having hurled herself into the terrible twos with a ferocity I can only liken to sheer madness. I am a seasoned mom, with four other kids, but the tantrums this one orchestrates, complete with Sybil-like outrage, leave me completely flummoxed. Getting her in her car seat these days leaves me shaking, sweaty, exhausted and yes, even bloody. She scratches my hands like she wants to rip them off of my wrists while I am trying to fasten her buckles. She pulls my hair so hard that my eyes water and I have to muster great self-control not to scream (at least when we are in public). She bites. Hard. Often. Of course, at daycare, she's an angel, so she saves her vitriolic venom for me, I guess. And I'm supposed to make a birthday cake for this little piece of work?????

Just In Case You Are In an Accident

With apologies to Cat Stevens , the Alatorre boys have reworked a classic song. Can you find the twist? Now that I've lost everything to you You say you want to start something new And it's breaking my heart, you're leaving Baby, I'm grieving If you want to leave, take good care Hope you find a lot of nice underwear Then a lot of nice things turn bad out there. School-aged boys sure now how to crack themselves up.

What Are We Protecting Them From?

I am growing increasingly uncomfortable with the word "appropriate." My kids know this word way too well, and the world for them is becoming divided into THINGS THAT ARE APPROPRIATE and THINGS THAT ARE INAPPROPRIATE . I'm getting more than a little suspicious that the modern urge to protect children from becoming monsters is leaving them little room for freedom and discovery. We don't want them to witness violence, of course, so we don't let them see violent movies. Ok, wise enough. But when my son comes to me with a copy of The Swiss Family Robinson and says "Mom, I know you don't really want me to read this because it's not appropriate for my age. There's too much violence in it," then I say UNCLE. Chalk one up for the over-protectionists! My son is staying away from a great adventure story because we and the culture around him have made him hypervigilant about what's appropriate... He's mere weeks away from being 10 yea

And Now, A Few Words from My Family

Little sister to big brother: “ You scream like a little girl .” Oldest son, watching women’s gymnastics: “ It must be hard to run with breasts .” Artist son, gazing thoughtfully out the front window: “ It’s very beautiful outside…the way the light is coming through the trees .” 3 year old, with disdain: “ It’s just the sun .” Unsympathetic offspring to mom: “ You’re not very exciting when you’re sick .” Oldest son, after a dance party featuring The Stray Cats: “ What does ‘Looking better every beer' mean ?” There is just no good way to answer that question when speaking to a nine-year old. Except of course for the one I provided: Ask your father. And speaking of artist son, here for your enjoyment, I present his latest masterpiece. He drew this for his 3-year old cousin. Well, not really for him, since he didn’t want to part with it after he drew it, but he did draw this the way his cousin wanted. “ You want me to draw you a bridge? Ok, here’s a bridge. You want a wh

I'll Be Your Groupie

I'm sicker than a dog. But I have a new band that I am going to follow forever, so why not start right now? My almost 10-yr. old just called me into his room to show me the picture he drew of his band. He's in the middle, heavily tattooed, playing guitar. He's got Brian Setzer on his right, playing bass, and Paul McCartney on his left, on drums. (Sorry Ringo!) I'd follow that band to the ends of the earth, even in a head-cold fog. Good thing the band is still in rehearsal mode, because I must sleep now...

Memories of My Crazy Pregnant Lady Days

I was driving the kids to their various stashing spots today, and as I pulled onto the freeway and went about merging into traffic, I noticed a motorcyclist sitting on the side of the freeway, half leaning against the concrete guard rail, looking a bit rattled. About 15 feet away from him, his motorcycle was also resting against the guard rail, standing upright on its back wheel, with the front wheel up and over the concrete. He reminded me of something, because I have seen this man, and his motorcycle, once before. Almost four years ago, on October 6, 2004, I was driving my first born to Kindergarten, with his little brother and little sister along for the ride. I am 100% sure of the date, because I was exactly nine months pregnant. It was my due date, although the intrepid Elizabeth would make us all wait another week before arriving in all her glory. But on this day, I was driving down Carlson towards the school, and I witnessed an accident between a car and a motorcyclist.

And This Was a GOOD Day

"Yogurt is not a finger food!" Had to say that one twice. To two different people. "Do not swing on the freezer door!" Had to say that one five times. To the same person. By 11:30, two kids had already showered...their first of two showers by days end. That happens when you dig holes in the garden for approximately five hours. Which they did, and they have the sunburned faces to prove it. But the biggest happening of the days was the one in which I caught a kid in a lie. I basically told him that I did not believe something he said, and then endured a good twenty minutes of intense and well-executed indignation. Just as I was starting to doubt that gut level instinct that told me he was fibbing, I took him gently by the shoulders and said: "Honey, if you were telling me the truth, then all you need to do is look me in the eye and tell me that. And if you do that, then I will apologize, because it was entirely wrong of me to accuse you of lying.&q

Advantages to Little Sisters and Fresh Air

One of the best things about having a little baby sister is that she is a captive audience and a pliable plaything. Witness one dressed up baby girl, courtesy of her very proud big brother. Lady Guinevere in a grass skirt! In other news, our very good friends have returned from their one-year sojourn to Nicaragua: Welcome Home! We had a lovely time seeing them today. A particular highlight was watching our two six-year old girls reunite. I took their two girls and my five kids on a two hour walk through Wild Cat Canyon today, (which, by the way, is easier than taking just my five out) and the 6-year olds held hands the entire time. They tried to wear the binoculars at the same time, but wound up conking heads pretty good, so that idea got nixed. After spending the morning together over coffee cake, after hiking the canyon, there were still tears when the day came to an end and they had to part ways. "We didn't even get to play!" I forgot my camera (grrrrr!),

I'm Raising Brainiacs

Since Shakespeare Camp started on Monday, Sam has been regaling me with all of the details, from the silly theatre games, to the real stage he'll get to act on (last year he was in a gym), to the snacks in the snack dispenser. And he's asked me a bunch of times: "Do you want to sit in the balcony when you watch the performance? It's really cool, and I think you should, and will you? Huh? Will you will you will you? I don't know how you get up there, but maybe you could ask when you drop me off, and don't you want to sit there? Why aren't you excited about sitting there? Don't you think it will be cool? Did you ask the Camp Staff yet? You're going to sit there, aren't you? How are you going to get up there? It's so cool!" Ack...he couldn't reduce me to a more complete state of incapacity if he jumped up and down on me and whacked me repeatedly with The Complete Works of Shakespeare . So today, after a long tiring day, Ric

Summer Goofballs and Water Babies

They are growing so fast, I hardly recognize them. We've had a lot of dance parties this summer. Not as much swimming as I thought we would do, but we did get to go to the pool today. Tallulah loved it: Oh how I wish summer could last forever...and I'm not the only one in this house who feels that way. I saw school supplies on sale today and stifled the urge to scream and run the other direction. The horror, oh the horror!

The Little Negotiator...and Further Reflections

"Mom. You need to give me ten bucks, because I buckled my car seat myself today." OK, dear, you are 3; here's the deal. I will not be paying you anything for buckling yourself in your seat. "OK Mom. How about 5 bucks? You need to give me 5 bucks." No dear, I do not. Hard lesson, isn't it? *** What a day. This one rivals this one , although it doesn't quite rise to that level. However, it did include, among other things, one lost and very needed camp binder with much searching high and low and so far no success, one bird flying through the house and getting stuck in our dining room, one trip to Costco with four children, two bank jobs (errands at two separate banks), and 45 minutes on hold with one of our lovely creditors trying to fix an error on our account. It also featured an absolute highlight of the summer: Today we went to Jazz Art, a twice a year event sponsored by the Berkeley Civic Arts Commission. Picture one cool jazz cafe, a

Seeking Inspiration

I am facing a long day in which I must get many loads of laundry done, find a place for many precious pieces of art that came home from art camp yesterday, pick up many items and find their homes, feed many picky eaters, and keep many people from spending the day whacking each other. I feel like I am preparing for battle. Steeling my reserves. Shoring up my defenses. And getting ready for disappointment. The basic conundrum: How do I get through the day and at the end of it, feel good about what I was able to get done and how I managed to mother my children all at the same time? I will attempt to practice heroic levels of detachment, keep my chin up, keep my feet moving (except when I need to sit and have a glass of water), and let the little stuff drift away from me. Life requires more optimism than is reasonable, don't you think?

I Just Can't Help Myself

I must post this picture of my daughter. Thank you to Nicole for this picture, and reminding me that childhood beauty can simply take one's breath away. Too often I get caught up in the rush and tumble that is our daily life and I do not pay attention to the boundless beauty, joy, love, and goodness with which I am surrounded. Faced with this picture (and the others Nicole took of my kids at a local park on a wonderful summer day), I can't help but be stopped in my tracks and forced to notice. She is, as has been documented here, a force to be reckoned with. Today at the grocery store, I braced myself for the usual fight. She has had trouble relinquishing the front seat in the cart to her baby sister. Said sister is almost two, but Elizabeth still has trouble with this. She always "calls" the front seat, only to be disappointed that it cannot be as she would wish. This little song and dance usually leads to tears and yelling. From both of us. I had both

Beatles: 1, NPR: 0

I made one of the best decisions of the summer this morning. I turned off NPR and turned on the Beatles. Blasted it really loud on my way to work, sang like a fool, and percussed on my steering wheel. Self-professed NPR junkie that I am, I realized that all thinking and no singing makes Mommy a very dull mommy indeed. Need an infusion of energy? Looking for a new perspective on the daily grind? Take a break from filling your mind with important social, political and cultural content and get your groove on!

The Talk

" The Talk " is looming at our house. We even have a cool book called What's the Big Secret that we are consulting. Well, it's on our dresser anyway, although I have yet to look at it. (Thanks for loaning it, Erika!) But the talk is on its way. There are many signs that tell us that the time is right: questions about things he hears at school (and there have been some doozies), movie scenes with kissing (ugh!), questions about babies... Indiana Jones has become really popular with the boys, and Rick and I have enjoyed revisiting these old favorites. (How come I never noticed how cheesy they were? Especially the third one!) Anyway, Sam and I were watching the 1st one the other night. Remember the scene where Marian (IJ's love interest) and Bellach (bad guy archeologist) are in a tent where the Germans are holding her hostage and Bellach wants to put the moves on her? He hands her this fancy white dress ( because archeologists digging for the Ark of the C

I'm It!

Running down a gravel path today, two beautiful girls spilling ahead of me. The older one, out in front, joyfully shouts: "I'm the leader!" Not to be outdone, the younger, equally joyfully, shouts: "And I'm the rotten egg!" You must admire such exuberance.

Why Do I Wait

Why do I wait to do things? Why did I take two months to finally empty that tote bag that went on the outing so long ago, that as it turned out, contained my favorite brush, the same brush I have been suffering without lo these eight long weeks? Why did I take six months to throw that diaper bag/backpack in the wash? I finally washed it the other day, and now that it's bright and clean, I remember how much I love it. E and T can go to daycare in high fashion now. Why did I put off taking care of that traffic ticket, only to go to court on the last possible day (today), without someone to watch the girls, so that I and 60 or so other hapless individuals, plus the judge, the court reporter, the bailiff, and the Spanish interpreter had to endure 2.5 hours of Tallulah? The child actually bit me -- HARD -- at one point. She, the wordless wonder, spoke a near complete sentence, motivated by the sheer unpleasantness of having to be in the courtroom for way too long: "Mama,


When I first started this blog, I wrote about wanting to blog as a way to make sense of the contradictions inherent in raising a family: the love and the anger, the joy and the despair, the exasperation and the exhilaration. Contradiction is a compelling idea to me. I am fascinated by the way people actually live their lives, by the way people act differently than they truly believe is the right and good way to act. There seems to be some essential truth there, some kernal of meaning in the constant presence of two seemingly opposite things. I have come to believe that I am supposed to pay attention to the clash, to sit with it, wrestle with it. And the more I pay attention, the more I see these contradictions all around me. They certainly are not limited to parenting. They are found in politics, art, education, the justice system...everywhere. I am reading Michael Pollan's The Omnivore's Dilemma , and enjoying it immensely. He is a wonderful writer. Having heard him spe

She's Freaking Me Out

Hardly had I clicked the PUBLISH button on my last post about Elizabeth when she added another charming moment to her history. Picture me in the grocery store, four kids in tow, all of them squirrely. I parked the cart in front of the centrally located tomatoes, and sent the older ones to get a few veggies while I selected avocados about 10 steps from the cart where Elizabeth and Tallulah were squabbling. Picture a little sour old lady waiting to get to the tomatoes and finding it impossible with my offspring in her way. I hurried over and apologized and tried to move the cart. Little sour lady wouldn't back up, and I was pinned in by two other carts as well, so I had to stand there for a little while apologizing and trying to move, while the veggie seekers came running back with their finds, further clogging up a very small area. Little sour lady would not return my attempts at civil, polite conversation; she just seemed utterly annoyed by my children and my cart. This lit

Fasten Your Seatbelts, She'll Be 13 Someday

My three year old is quite something. The other day, I overheard her playing with her big sister, and heard her say: "My boyfriend is 8, and he doesn't even drive yet." What is that? This is the same little bit who turns her backside to her older brothers, pokes her little bottom towards them, and says, "I'm shaking my booty at you!" The same girl who refuses to hold my hand across a street, insisting that she will "hold my own hand" instead. Picture a stubborn little peanut holding one hand in the other, chin up, marching across the street. The same girl who said to me today, in response to my telling her that she could not play in the fancy new dress a friend gave her, "I'll just sneak in my room and put it on when you aren't looking." I kid you not, that's what she said. The same girl who, when she kisses her father, I feel the need to tell her that he is already married. (She likes to give him what she calls &qu