Showing posts from June, 2011

What We Do

My husband and I own and operate Alatorre Garden Design, here in the lovely East Bay of the San Francisco Bay Area. Lots of people look at me blankly when I say this, so I thought I'd provide a little sample of what it is that we do. We meet with folks who want to create "native paradises" in their gardens: gardens that feature California native plants, encourage wildlife, and conserve natural resources. Rick is a walking encyclopedia of California native plants: his knowledge is impressive. He uses that knowledge, as well as his aesthetic sense and his love of Fibonacci numbers to create beautiful spaces for our clients. Where do I come in? Having zero native plant knowledge but possessing some killer penmanship skillz, I render his ideas neatly on paper. He draws a rough draft of his designs, and then I come along and ink the drawing, adding all the features and notes he has crawled in his barely legible chicken scratch. Here's a sample of one of our designs

Broccoli Wars

Him: "Mom, how many pieces of broccoli do I need to have?" Me: "Five." Him: "How about four?" Me: "How about six?" Him: "How about five?" Me: "Sounds good to me." I win. * * *

Thank You Ben Greenman!

Ben Greenman of the New Yorker has enhanced the celebration of my wedding anniversary! Well, Ben Greenman and John McEnroe. In the New Yorker blog The Sporting Scene , Greenman has proposed that June 22 be henceforth known as You Cannot Be Serious day, in honor of McEnroe's response to the umpire in his Wimbledon match on June 22, 1981. Read more about it, and Greenman's proposal, in the Sporting Scene blog, here . And on June 22, 1996, Rick and I got hitched. That is just perfect. Perfect for the ridiculous life we lead, with all these kids, socks, spoons, books, art projects, and bagels. Perfect for the way my kitchen looks three times a day. Perfect for the frequency with which stuff breaks around here. Perfect for the way whenever we have just a little bit of extra money, one of our cars needs major repairs. Perfect for capturing my response to learning that I would be having a fifth child. Perfect for being married to a guy who brings home giant paella pans, hug

Sing It, Girl

Little T. The youngest. The fearless one. The pain in my backside. The force. The absolute cuteness. I am a youngest child, as is my husband. Side note: as a general rule, I would advice youngests against marrying each other: we both expect to get our way all the time, so one of us is usually shocked and disappointed. There is no better place to be in a family than bringing up the rear. Being the youngest, especially of a large brood, means you benefit from just the right amount of benign neglect. Parents are experienced enough to let 60% of your antics slide and exhausted enough to completely miss the other 40%. My youngest has cartloads of confidence, gathered from being minimally supervised and able to try pretty much anything she wants to. She sees the world as her oyster, and the world complies. She doesn't offend easily (except when her siblings imitate her little lispy cartoon character voice: that seriously pisses her off) and she hurtles through life with aba

Bad Attitude: Discuss

On this bright, warm, gorgeous summer morning, on this summer solstice celebration, I am all by myself. Three kids at art camp. 10-1. One kid at Vacation Bible Schoool, 9-12:30. One kid at Vacation Bible School, 9-5. Which gives me from approximately 10:15-12:15 by myself. I find myself utterly unable to enjoy it. I am too overwhelmed by the messes, the stresses, the little failures (like the monumental task of finding people shorts this morning), the looming chores, the tasks that I never have time for when the kids are around but which are far too numerous to be tackled in two small hours. So. Two hours to myself, and all I'm doing is feeling sorry for myself. I can't kick my brain over into that a positive frame of mind, can't see the silver lining, can't enjoy the respite from "Mommy Mommy Mommy." I am, in short, a fun sucker. (The older kids watched Freaky Friday yesterday after we hiked at Alvarado Park in the brutal heat.) I'm sucking th

Gifts My Father Gave Me

It's Father's Day, the day to give gifts to our dads that express our love and gratitude for everything they have given us. I do not get a passing grade in this department: I didn't get mine anything. Nothing. Squat. Nada. I am using, as my excuse, the fact that he is out of the state right now. Maybe I'll get my act together by the time he gets back. (Want to extend that vacation, dad??) But I have thought about him all day long, as I've helped my own kids do things for their dad to mark the day. I've thought about what I might give him to show him how much I love him, but I'm coming up empty. Instead, all I keep thinking about is what he has given me , which far exceeds anything I could purchase or anything I could imagine. He gave me Angel Band , and an appreciation for bluegrass music that surprises me, since as a kid, the sound of a banjo made me want to quadruple pierce my ears, vote Republican, and watch mindless television just to piss h

Summer 2011

I created a new page over there in my right hand side bar, called SUMMER 2011: THE LIST . This page will chronicle the Best. Summer. Ever. hosted by the Best. Mom. Ever. I decided I needed something visual to help me plan and enjoy summer. My usual pattern is to vow that Summer will be awesome and to spend the next several weeks yelling at short people and basking in failure. Maybe, if I have a list , things will be different. If nothing else, I am a hopeful person. And speaking of hope, I hope you will visit this new page and give me suggestions for fun summer activities. Happy Summer everyone! * * *

Planning Ahead

Little T is wearing my flip flops around the house this morning. They are pink. They are cute. Apparently, she really likes them: "Mama, when you die, can I have your flip flops?" * * * And once on the topic, she continues: "Mama, when you die and turn into a angel, can I still come be with you? Can we both be angels together? Can we be a whole family of angels?????" * * * I love her. She gives me whiplash. * * *

She Drives a Hard Bargain

My tude-ridden six year old has developed a shrieking habit. When she is mad, when she perceives some injustice done to her, when she is overly tired or hungry, the littlest provocation sets her shrieking. It sucketh. (I've tried to stop the kids from saying "that sucks," since it sounds trashy and rude. Somehow, adding -eth to the end makes it less so. Right?) Tonight, in a fit of anger, she decide to combine shrieking with drawing hateful pictures of her sister. She was promptly and decisively placed in a time out. After sufficient time had passed, I told her she could come out. She did not. A few minutes later, this came from her room: "I'M NOT COMING OUT UNTIL I GET SOME RESPECT!" Looks like I will be enjoying a nice, shriek-less evening. * * *

Practice Makes...Me Tired

I always thought that the more you do something, the better you get at it. Practice makes perfect, right? Well, it seems this truism applies everywhere except parenting. Or is it just me? * * * "Mama, does Leila have a faster car than we do?" "I don't know, honey; why?" "Because she always gets to preschool before we do." Yes dear; we are chronically late. Yes dear, I've now been taking short people to preschool three days a week for eight years. No dear, I haven't figured out how to arrive on time. Actually, I got your brother there on time or early when I was a newly minted preschool parent. I've gotten worse over time. * * * And grocery shopping with short people. I'm getting worse at that too. I had four of them in Trader Joe's the other day, and I felt like a complete rookie. Along with fruit and bread, I got mayhem, whining, pleading for treats, and a complete lack of control: it wasn't pretty. I purchase

Finding the Silver Lining

Cleaning is a drag. No one actually enjoys cleaning, right? My kids are no exception. But they have figured out that cleaning has a few upsides. Here are the positive discoveries they made tonight: (1) If you are on dish washing duty, you can spray your siblings with water and create an impressive amount of chaos. (2) If the living room floor is clear of socks, shoes, books, drawing stuff and jigsaw puzzle pieces, you can have a dance party to Michael Franti's Say Hey, even though Mom says the job isn't done until the dining room and kitchen are clean too. (3) If you have to put away a long sheer white curtain (and no, no one knows how it got underneath the dining room table, Mom), you can wrap it around your head and shoulders like a shepherdess and sing Mary Had A Little Lamb in an operatic voice. The singing is fun, but the real benefits are annoying the hell out of your siblings, delaying any actual cleaning, and watching Mom do her imitation of Linda Blair because

7 Quick Morning Takes: Volume 29

Friday morning and this is what I got: cloudy light flickering around my window panes, To Kill a Mockingbird dialogue swirling around in my head, and french toast going down easily with farm fresh peaches. I've also got a super messy house, a desperate need for a shower, and children playing with that darn sound barrier again. Here are some quick takes from my morning: ~ 1 ~ This morning, my son was playing The Black Eyed Peas from his room way too loudly for my tastes. The sound pitched me into that place where I fear my children are growing up on the wrong path. Now, thankfully, he has moved on to Bob Dylan (Tombstone Blues), and rightness has been restored to the world. ~ 2 ~ This morning, my daughter said to me: "Mama, remember when you were all mad at us, and you sent us to bed when I was trying to tell you something? Well, all I wanted to say was that I wanted some pizza." And a little later: "Mama, remember when you were all mad at us, and you sent


OK, people, I just looked at some of the searches that have landed people on this blog, and apparently, one of you got here by googling " homeschooling " and " go topless ." And I'm left saying Goodness Gracious for the second time today. For the record, we keep our clothes on while we are learning stuff. * * *

How Embarrassing

OMG, I just read my previous post and found many egregious grammar and spelling errors. Goodness gracious. As someone who complains publicly about bad grammar, I find this mortifying. I fixed 'em. Not sure I got 'em all, but I did my best. Feel free to alert me to anything I missed. Once again, I am living proof that editors are actually angels, and everybody needs one. * * *

For the Sake of the Squirrels

" Shoot all the bluejays you want, if you can hit 'em, but remember it's a sin to kill a mockingbird. " - the character of Atticus Finch, in Harper Lee's To Kill A Mockingbird When I was in high school, my friends and I went up to a cabin near Tahoe for some fun and relaxation. It was awesome. This could be a post about how while we were there we read great literature, such as Harper Lee's masterpiece, but actually, it's about how we shot all the bluejays we could find, in a manner of speaking. The quote above, which the kids and I came across the other day since we're reading that book outloud, put me in mind of bluejays and how annoying they can be, which reminded me a story from our Tahoe vacation over 20 years ago. The cabin had a back deck, which looked out on gorgeous woods, full of deer, birds, and squirrels. Among our provisions, we had a large bag of peanuts in their shells, and we thought it would be fun to share those peanuts with t