Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Say cheeeese...

The baby girl had her first "professional" picture taken today!
And yes, I am still using Chuck E Cheese for all of our formal photographs.
She was smiling and laughing the entire time we were there. So take that *insert name here* portrait studio chain! No waiting, no uncomfortable posing, no fake smiling, no 150 portraits package that ends up in a drawer, and no tantrums. Never at Chuck's!

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Too much pressure

My poor blog. My poor, neglected and lonely blog. This is the third one I have begun and abandoned and I have been trying to understand why that is so. I could use the excuse of no time to write but that would be a lie. Yes, I am busy like all moms are, but I seem to have enough time to manage my virtual farm on Facebook and update the masses with my status many times a week. Have I lost my passion for writing? Not likely. I have been writing creatively since I was a child. My mother loves to tell the story of how she discovered my hidden diary and in true mom fashion read it. I had written a story about ten diary pages long, about a road trip I took to go and discover myself in New York. It was an exciting and romantic story of a group of friends and their cross country adventures along the way, including details of my relationship with my boyfriend. Did I mention I was eight when I wrote this story? Needless to say my mom was less enthused about my talent as a writer and more worried that I had written such an adult tale.
I also remember writing and illustrating a children's story about an outer space alien named Fuzzy. Or maybe it was Fuzzo. Either way nothing ever became of that and a few years later my mom saw a similar toy being sold in the stores, which pretty much sums up a lot of my life. I spent countless hours in my room writing really bad rhymes that eventually turned into some decent poetry. When I was fifteen, I even added "write a book before I turn 40" to my list of lifetime goals as motivation for me to keep writing. I have always loved putting my thoughts onto paper and somewhere in my last year of high school, I met a teacher who also enjoyed what I had to say. It was my advanced placement English teacher, Mr Pedersen, who wrote on paper after paper that he really enjoyed my writing and his only complaint was that I was not in class enough for him to read more. I felt validated and I wondered if I could get further validation by publishing my words.
This is when the pursuit of my first approval letter began. There was no Internet at the time so I began researching writing magazines and do it yourself publishing books. They all said something different; write a chapter and then send that in, or don't send a chapter in but instead describe your idea for your book in 250 words or less, or even don't send anything at all and just explain the genre you would like to write in and what your background is in that genre. Some said take a writing course, some said get a degree, some said enter contests, and all of them said expect rejection.
And I believe this is where I got off the publishing your first novel train. I am not and never have been a big fan of rejection and from what I was reading I should expect to be rejected many, many, many times before anyone would even consider me as a serious author. Over the years I have had many people tell me that they enjoy my writing and I appreciate the applause. Many have also suggested that I write that book. But I think the pressure of producing and the fear of being told my writing sucked, kept me from allowing my passion to turn into something larger. What if all those people were wrong and I really had no ability? What if no one enjoyed what I wrote? I believe it is these same fears that have kept me from being an active blogger. By focusing on becoming a published writer I sucked out all the joy I got from writing in the first place. And by focusing on what everyone else thinks I have come to dislike the practice of blogging. But that was then.
Like I wrote in my introduction, I write to unclutter my mind. Writing has allowed me to process my past and subsequently move on to my present. It has given me an outlet for feelings too big or scary to speak out loud and it has given me a written record of how far I have come in life. I have written for my husband who loves everything I write and I have written for my family. Most everything else I have written was to make myself laugh or cry or think. I will always write and I will always love it whether anyone ever reads a single word of it again. And rather than end like Captain Ahab, I am waving goodbye and Godspeed to my white whale. Life is too short to be creating my own obstacles.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Busy, busy!

I keep meaning to log on and write something down, but lately I have been in remodeling hell. Well, it isn't really hell, more like remodeling purgatory. I am beginning to enjoy the results but the work has been exhausting, and I never even touched a hammer. I guess I really had no idea what I was getting myself into when my husband and I agreed to begin working on our house this past December. Getting the windows and doors done was not too bad, except the guy could only come on the weekends when the breadwinner was working so that left me to struggle with a preschooler who hates loud noises and a baby who needed to nap, while the door guy was carving a massive hole in our living room to install new french doors. But we managed. Having no master bath for a month was a little harder, since we have the only shower in the house and I hate baths. I can never understand how people lie about in their own filth and actually enjoy it. And as a little FYI, whatever amount of time a contractor tells you something is going to take, go ahead and multiple that by four and that will give you a better estimate of the time frame for your project.
The kitchen has been the most difficult remodel to live through, especially with a baby who would really like to scoot herself into the barren and very dirty box which was once a kitchen. But at least because we decided to dive into it, we were lucky? unlucky? enough to discover a burst pipe behind the wall, and homeowners insurance subsequently paid for half of our remodel. Too bad it didn't pay for all but any money was really a big blessing to us since we had totally intended to pay for it all ourselves.
Yes, remodeling the kitchen while you are still living in your home, can be pretty tricky. Having all of your food, utensils, plates, microwave, coffeemaker, and refrigerator jammed into a small playroom and washing dishes in the bathroom sink is not for the faint of heart. It was a major challenge, one that I questioned at least twenty times a day while mixing up a baby bottle in the bathroom and trying to squeeze between the computer and the old kitchen table to locate a paper plate. I honestly did not care how many trees suffered for my kitchen to be redone. I was not going to be washing filthy food filled plates in the bathtub as the lady at the cabinet store explained to me that she herself had done when she had remodeled her kitchen.
But the suffering was worth it. I hated our old kitchen, mainly because it was old. But it also had these horrible soffits that made it seem even smaller than it was, and it lacked anything attractive in it save for my husband who spent a lot of time there washing dishes.
The kitchen is about 99% done. Just a few touch ups, a little bit of paint, and then we move everything back in and the little guy can have his beloved playroom back. Of course, while we were fixing up the bath and kitchen, I thought it would be a good idea to also tackle the living room and the bedrooms. That required many, many trips into town to buy new furniture, drapes, paint, carpeting, rugs, televisions, the list goes on, and we are still not done with the living room. And then we had to pick out all the materials to create our new spaces. Who knew I would need to look at so many squares of tile, slabs of granite, and every fixture under the sun. I think I can accurately inform customers of where most things are located inside not one but two separate Lowe's and Home Depot stores.
I have spent a little bit of time reflecting on this experience. Some of it has been fun and some of it has been insanely stressful. I am actually a bit surprised that I am writing this as a still married woman. I thought for sure the arguing over every detail would be the end of my marriage. And it is difficult to come to a decision when buying anything permanently affixed to your home, when you know that one wrong choice will either cost you a pretty penny to replace or will lead to many years of suffering the consequences of your bad taste. My husband and I questioned and requestioned and requestioned again just about every choice we made. We both finally realized that if we like it then who cares what anyone else thinks? And the poor kids! They really deserve a trip to Disneyland for enduring day long shopping trips at least once per week sometimes twice, since January.
I am very happy with the results of all the worker guys (the little man's name for the people who made my happiness possible) labor, but I don't think we are done yet. It is a frightening thought, but my sweet husband thinks we should turn the garage into a giant playroom for the kids so we can reclaim some room in this small house. I think it's a great idea, but I also want to add another bedroom on so that each kid can have their own space and I also have visions of the back porch being completely encased with large windows, and in the center a large rustic dining table for summer meals, and a door leading into a beautiful enclosed flower garden complete with benches and a large koi pond. Sounds relaxing doesn't it?
Then of course we still need to fix all the dry rot that surrounds the eaves of our home, blow insulation into the attic, strip the peeling paint and repaint the entire outside of the house. Oh and add new rain gutters. Now I know why some people choose to never own homes. Or why they forego the fixer uppers and pay extra to have a brand new home. I guess we could wait out the crazy real estate market and just buy a new bigger place in a few years, but then what would I do with all my time?

Friday, March 20, 2009

Who does this?

I had heard that it happens when you least expect it. They lurk in the dark corners of strip malls and fast food joints, just waiting to pounce on an unsuspecting mother. You know what I am talking about, robomoms!!! These moms, who seem to have about enough human emotion to nurture a rock, are always on the hunt looking to compare their child to yours. I never really believed that they existed until this past week.
I was having a lovely day out shopping with my little family. The sun was shining, the kids were behaving, and I had somehow just convinced my husband that we needed to spend $400 on new curtains for the living room. I was feeling really good. Apparently that is when robomoms like to make their move!
A woman who I have never met, made her way into the store. She was pushing a cart with what appeared to be a sleeping baby. I was in the check out line, smiling from ear to ear as the clerk rang up my beautiful new curtains. My husband was looking a little pale as he watched the total continue to rise. I was talking to the little man about the Snuggie blanket he had noticed on sale and cooing at my baby.
The woman casually said, "Your baby is adorable," as she passed by.
"Thank you" I said.
I couldn't really say the same to her because her little package was covered almost completely with a blanket, despite the fact that it was fairly warm outside.
Her husband got in another line to make a return and she placed her cart and sleeping robobaby in between the two lines.
Then she asked how old my daughter was.
"Eight months," I said.
"Oh," she replied. "Mine is nine months."
Then she asked, "Is she saying any words?"
Um, does oooooo, gaaaa, ooo, baaaa, bleeeeeeh, count?
"No, she's not talking."
She's eight freaking months old, I thought to myself!
She just figured out that she can use her arms to turn herself over and that mommy really does not like it when she pulls the tabs loose on her diaper right after she's put them on. Do you really think she is going to be having conversations?
The woman beamed a proud smile at her sleeping infant and said, "My daughter says four words."
"Really?" I replied. She couldn't prove it. I had to take her at her word since her baby was in la-la land.
"Well. My son didn't say anything until he was almost eleven months so I'm sure she will be a late talker too, " I stuttered.
I wanted to tell her to not be so eager for the little thing to talk. I prayed for my son to speak every day until he turned two and then he started speaking in full sentences and now he never shuts up. He speaks so much he now knows that I often tune him out. After every monologue he asks me, "Now, what did I say?" I'm sure he learned this particular line from me.
"Does she have any teeth?" Robomom was talking at me again.
Now I was feeling more defensive.
"My son didn't get any teeth until he was ten months old and I believe that is hereditary so I am not expecting any for a while." So there.
"Robomom smiled at me this time, "My baby has six teeth already."
I wanted to roll my eyes and say, Wow! You better call up Harvard and get that girl enrolled!! They would be lucky to have her!
But I sheepishly said, "Oh."
Robomom, having satisfied her hunger for making other moms feel small, turned and pushed her cart over to where her husband stood in line.
I helped my very pale from just having paid the bill husband load up our purchases into the cart and we both sulked out to the car with the little man trailing behind.
This whole scene bothered me for hours and I really try not to let stuff like that get to me. I think it was the way she was so belligerent in her asking. She purposely asked me about my daughter first before she divulged anything about her own. I don't even know if she really had a daughter since I never saw it move. For all I know she was a loony with one of those Reborn dolls, out looking to harass sleep deprived mothers of real children.
I really don't care about time lines. I did with my son. He was late getting teeth, crawling, and talking. I wasted a lot of precious time worrying for nothing. He got four teeth between ten and eleven months, he crawled at ten months, walked at a year, and spoke with a huge vocabulary at two years. He might not have done everything at the same time as the other babies, but he did eventually do them. And I know the baby girl will too! In her own time.
Her lack of desire to crawl only means I can wait on baby proofing the house again, something I am not entirely looking forward to doing. And really, with all the talking going on between my son and me, she won't be able to get a word in for a long time to come.
And the next time I run into a Robomom I am going to beat her to the punch! "Yes, my daughter speaks," I will say. "In fact, she's reciting one of her poems on open mike night at Javawava this week. Come check it out."

Friday, March 6, 2009

And you are...?

I learned to swim when I was only a few years old. After my beginner class one day, I got out of the shallow end of the pool, walked directly to the deep end, climbed the ladder to the diving board, and did my best jump into the water. My parents stared in disbelief as I resurfaced from under the water and then proceeded to doggie paddle to the shallow end with a big smile on my face. In the years that followed, I would see that same look on their faces many times as I somersaulted on a balance beam, swung around the uneven parallel bars, and vaulted into a pile of foam. As a child, I was fearless.

Fast forward to last week. I casually mentioned to my son, who will be five in less than a month, that we would begin swim lessons this summer. Both his cousin and his grandparents have ponds. And the pond at his grandparents is large enough to use a boat for fishing in it. We spend many days there in the summer and I believe as he gets older he will be spending more time swimming at the pond with just his cousins. Not to mention that his dad and I just plain love to be in, on, or near water as often as possible. So the little guy needs to be able to be around water safely too.

As soon as the words were out of my mouth, the little man began to cry. Not one of those fake, I am tantrumming and I am here to make your life miserable kind of cries, but a wail really, complete with tears streaming down his face. After finally calming him down a good twenty minutes later, I was able to ascertain why he was crying. He is afraid of drowning. Or I should say, he believes the swim teacher is going to force his head under the water, which will then cause him to swallow massive amounts of it, and this in turn will make him drown. I explained that I would never take him to a place where they would allow that, because it would be much cheaper to do that myself, but the only way I could get him to stop crying was to promise that I would not make him take the lessons until he is ready.

When my son was younger I did see some signs that he had begun to have many fears. When most kids were scared of monsters in their closets the kid was saying that Jesus could not protect him from bad guys at night because he was only a guy and that I could not either since I didn't have a gun like dad. When we went to Disneyland he rode the Pirates of the Caribbean twice. When we asked if he wanted to ride it again the next day he said no. Was he scared of the creepy pirates and skeletons? No, he said. Those were not real. Was he scared because it got so dark during part of the ride? Darkness just meant we could not see the sun, he said. No, he was scared of the big wave that tossed over you in the dark. Wave? We tried to explain that it was just the boat going a little further down into the ride. But there was no convincing him. He felt the water on his face so that meant that a wave was towering over him. I don't understand why at one time he enjoyed the Rockets, Dumbo and Soaring Over California but he no longer does. All he can say is that they go high and he no longer wants to ride them. In fact, his new favorite ride at Disneyland is the carousel. That's right. The little wooden horses that go round and round and that he refused to ride alone until he was four years old. That, and the train.

He also has fears about learning to ride a bike, hanging from the monkey bars, skiing and flying in an airplane, to name a few. I believe the little guy might even have a fear of the number thirteen since he always skips it when he counts. We assumed he also had a fear of sledding since last year we had to bribe him to go with us. But then this year he sledded down the hill at his grandparents house and insisted on going alone. We thought he had been cured of this fear but turns out it was just a momentary lapse of good judgement. When it snowed at our house recently I tried to get him to sled on my lap and he would have none of it. So, I sledded alone. Hey no one's going to ruin my fearless fun. He can pass up on all the scary experiences he wants to pass up but I won't sit them out just because he chooses to do so.

I am not too worried about these new fears he has developed. It hasn't stopped him from participating in any activities with his friends, yet. I hold the hope that he will outgrow at least some of the more irrational ones. In the meantime, if he wants to wear a life jacket to swim until he's 10 and he has no issues with it, then neither do I. Bike riding, flying in a plane, and Disneyland can wait until he's older too. We don't even have a paved driveway for him to learn to ride a bike on anyway. The one thing that does occasionally bum me out is that he is really afraid of roller coasters. He's only ever been on a kiddie coaster but he has no desire to ever ride a big coaster. And his dad and I love them. We have even talked about traveling to other states just so we can try out some of the roller coasters we have seen on those travel shows. But if you even mention the word roller coaster the look of fear in his eyes is enough to break your heart.

I love my kids and I knew that becoming a parent would mean many sacrifices. I have seen parents at amusement parks practically forcing their children to ride roller coasters with them. Their kids are often in tears begging the parents to let them sit the ride out. But these parents will not have it. They tell the child that everyone else wants to ride so they will too. I don't really understand the logic but who am I to judge them? I just know I will never be one of those parents. My son has his own brand of fun and if that doesn't include riding coasters than so be it. My husband and I have no issue taking turns riding alone while one of us waits with the kids. It is actually a bit more exhilarating riding that way. And people seem to look at you with admiration. Who could be so brazen as to ride this spine tingling 82 miles per hour thrill ride with a 90 degree drop all by themselves? Like I said, no one's going to ruin my fun.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Frequent Philanthropy Friday

I have decided to change my Friday theme. It will now be known as Frequent Philanthropy Fridays. I mean, who are we kidding here. I am a lazy person and writing is no exception. I cannot be expected to write every single Friday. Why do you think I gave myself until 40 to write a book? I set that deadline when I was 15! No really. I know I have two kids and my husband works weird hours and I feel like a single mom half the time, but none of that is an excuse for the dishes that don't get done, the washed clothes that don't get put away, and the dinners that do not get made. Unless you count cereal. I do slice the bananas! Anyway, the really real truth is that I am a sloth. Seriously. Ask my husband. I do pick up my clothes and make the bed and things like that. I'm not a slob. I am just a little more laid back than some. Most. Whatever. At least I admit it and admitting it is the first step to fixing it, right?
So I plan on occasionally, excuse me, frequently, telling you about a charity or organization that I give to, love, etc on Fridays. Frequent Philanthropy Fridays. But not this one. Happy Friday!

(FYI: Seeing as how I am almost 38, my new deadline for writing a book is 50. I just found out that my magnificent and extremely original idea for a book was recently done by someone else. Obviously, someone less lazy than me. Makes sense. And the reviews were exactly what I had expected, "this is such a new take on this", "he really made me understand what he has gone through", "so different from all the other books I have read on this subject, and that's a lot of books", blah, blah, blah!)

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Philanthropy Friday

Okay, I know it is not Friday but I am always late so... I wanted to say that I think giving to those in need is something everyone should do, not only because of like God and all, but also because it really feels good to give. You don't always know how the other person is feeling when they get your gift, but the feeling you get from knowing that you might have helped someone through a tough week or month or even given someone a brand new shot at life is an incredible feeling unlike any other. Honestly, even those people who are a bit tight fisted with the dough will feel a sense of oneness with the world and things greater when they give. So, to highlight the spirit of giving, every Friday, I am going to tell you about either an organization that I give to or would like to give to, or relay a story of my experience giving.

This week I wanted to tell you all about Kiva. It is an amazing organization that my sister told me about last year. Everything is done online through their

Kiva is an organization that locates people in other countries that need loans that could not otherwise get them. Basically it's lending money to poor people, low-income entrepreneurs. The loans are micro loans so the repayment doesn't typically take more than a year or so, and you can pick and choose who you want to lend to and how much of their loan you want to fund. They have many profiles on the website detailing the information of each individual such as why they want the loan, what the repayment terms are and whether they have borrowed before. You can loan the entire amount or a small fraction and then others can also donate. The best part is that you can transfer money through
Paypal and then the local organizations in these countries do the rest. Periodically, you will be sent updates as to how things are going with these entrepreneurs and how much of their loan they have repaid. As they repay the money you can begin to loan this money out to others in need. So even if you only have $25 or $50 to give you can still touch many, many lives.

What I like about this organization is that you are helping people not just to survive, but to thrive. So, we give to Kiva. Right now we are helping three different people. One person is a mom who needs to add another room on to her tiny makeshift house in Mexico for a baby she is expecting. Another woman is a carpenter in Bolivia who wants to expand her business. And the third entrepreneur is a woman in Cambodia who wants to add more crops to her small farm and would also like to add new inventory to the little store that she runs from her home. These people might be touched by our help but I am also moved to see the drive each has to overcome their circumstances and better their lives and the lives of their children.

So go to Kiva, open up an account, and change someone's life forever.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Here Fishy, Fishy

I routinely forget things. I have ADHD and I routinely forget things. I don't mean routinely forget as in sometimes I leave the clothes in the washer and forget to dry them. I mean routinely forget as in at least once a week I put the water and soap in the washer, throw the clothes in, go to grab one more shirt that I really need to wash for tomorrow, stop and see that a friend wants to chat on Facebook, and forget to wash not only the shirt I need, but also forget to close the washer lid so that the clothes already set to be washed sit in water for hours until my husband goes into the garage for a screwdriver and sees the washer, full of water and clothes. I don't walk into a room and forget what I came to get. I can't even get out of the first room to go get something before forgetting the thing I am going to get in addition to remembering five other things I need to remember but then forgetting those things by the time I get to the room I was going to in the first place. Are you following here?
Once on a trip with some friends my forgetfulness struck again. We stopped to get some coffee. As we were all getting into the car my sister and I shared, I placed the coffee on the roof of the car so I could get situated first. Do you see it coming? Yes, I forgot the coffee. I forgot until we had already driven several blocks, made a turn and were waiting at a stoplight. As I looked to my right I noticed the person in the car next to us was pointing to the roof of our car and laughing. Then I remembered. I reached out the open window, calmly grabbed my coffee cup, and took a sip. Honestly, I am more than a little surprised that I have yet to forget one of my children somewhere.
Anyway, since I have the ADHD curse I burn food all the time, because of course I forget I am cooking something five minutes after it goes into the oven. Whenever I make cookies I always have one batch that is larger than the rest, because I usually burn at least one sheet of them. Then to compensate for the loss I have to make the rest smaller. I also often serve things blackened. Really, I am not as into Cajun cooking as one might think. It's just the burning thing again.
But not tonight. No, no! Tonight, I am beaming with the pride of a soccer mom whose son just scored his first goal. I cooked myself some salmon for dinner and it came out perfectly cooked. No one was here to share in my delight but that's okay. I triumphantly enjoyed my delicious salmon and toast anyway. I had toast because I forgot to make any vegetables to enjoy with my salmon but it matters not. I ate the best salmon I have ever cooked!! It really is the little moments in life that make it all worth it.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Celebrate good times, come on!

I am not a girlie girl. I know I have said this before. It's not like I don't like wearing dresses or makeup. I do enjoy those things. And I don't particularly care for many sports, so I'm not really tomboyish either. But I do know that you will never see me truly enjoying extended shopping trips, creating Christmas letters, or spending hours creating scrapbook masterpieces. And I really dislike party planning. I love parties but the planning produces much anxiety in me. I never really thought I would have to plan parties but I overlooked the fact that as a mom I would be spending many hours on just that.
Every year, around this time, I start to stress about my son's upcoming birthday in March. Maybe it would be easier if his birthday were in July, for example. The choice would be so obvious. Pool party! Or in October, dress up party! But March? Not only do I have no idea what theme to do most years, I also don't know whether I should plan an inside or an outside party because March weather is as unpredictable as my son's temper. And if you think you can get away with having a child's party without a theme, you are just as naive as I once was. Everything is sold in themes. Plates, cups, napkins, even the invitations. There's no getting around it. Throw a birthday party without a theme, using plain colored products and homemade invites, and you will look like an amateur, which the perfectionist deep within me cannot accept.
So far, I have been pretty lucky when it comes to the weather aspect. His first birthday was held outside and despite a little excessive wind that practically blew the table decorations away, the party went just fine. It was a rubber duck party and I had planned on making a ducky in a tub cake. The heat inside my tiny little house caused the frosting to melt and the bathtub water, i.e. jello, never quite set right. But because of my anxiety, I had already bought a "just in case I am not as talented in the cake decorating department as I would like to imagine I am" cake, fortunately, so the day was saved!
His second birthday party, I held outside and we managed to have a perfectly sunny sky that day. Our theme was Mickey Mouse and his cake, bought from the store, looked fabulous! We ordered about six pizzas too many so we ended up wasting a lot and begging people to take some home. But the favors did look really cute. And my sisters, always one step ahead of my thinking, brought good wine. So everything was great, in my slightly buzzed opinion.
His third birthday party was a little rough. Again I held it outside but at my current home. Having never lived through a March here, I didn't realize that it would be so hot outside, so my guests were sweating quite a bit. And opening presents inside was not too much cooler since there were so many people jammed into my little living room. But the theme worked great. There were only four kids, including my son. The theme was pirates at my son's request. We dressed the kids up as mini pirates with painted on moustaches, temporary tattoos, hook hands, fake pirate earrings, and bandannas. The kids played pirate games, ate pirate boat hot dogs, decorated treasure chests and then went on a treasure hunt to rival all others. (It helps to have acreage and lots of clutter inside the home to properly hide clues.) I even bought real shovels for the kids to dig out the treasure chest that I had my husband bury in the dirt. It was a great time and the kids celebrated their loot with a cake, made 100% by yours truly, shaped like a pirate ship, complete with big sails, cannon balls, a plank, and even mini pirates. (Really, no applause is necessary.)
Last year the little man had met more friends here, so we held the party at a local children's museum and just did cake and ice cream. Against my better judgement and at my husband's urging, I did not serve any appetizers and I think the guests might have been a little hungry by the time the cake was served. And the cake. It was really pretty when we picked it up. Unfortunately, the cake department at Von's had just finished decorating it. If you know anything about transporting cakes then you know you should always chill a cake before easing it into a box and placing it in your car. My husband drove pretty cautiously, but the cake still slid to one side and the top layer almost fell off! I was very frustrated at this huge mistake the bakery staff had made, and that just made me even more anxious than I already was. But the kids seemed to have a lot of fun running around and trying out all the museum had to offer and everything looked very Spongebobish. My big bargain find was packages of crabby patty candies at the dollar store, to put in the goody bags. I had almost ordered the same product from an online party store, for five times the price. Plus the weather was on the cold side so we made a good choice doing something indoors.
Was I relaxed at any of these parties, you ask? Not even close. I should seriously consider asking my doctor for Valium just to make it through the day, I am that anxious. I worry too much about others comfort and enjoyment I guess, to truly enjoy the time. And of course, I also spend great amounts of time trying to catch perfect candid shots with my mid range, sometimes takes good photos sometimes blurs the hell out of them, camera. It is exhausting and I begin dreading the process every December.
And now we arrive at this year. I am even more stressed this year. We took the little guy bowling recently and he really enjoyed it so I thought, what about a bowling party? But part of my dilemma is that we live so far away from all the fun indoor places. The other part is that his preschool class has 19 other students. 19!! That's a lot of kids!! Do I have to invite them all? Would it make some kids feel bad if other kids talked about his party and they had not been invited? And I have seen some of these kids families. More than a few of them have several young kids. One even has eight kids. Are they automatically invited as well, by default? Do I tell the parents to drop off their child so I don't have to pay for families of 5 or 6 to attend? This isn't a wedding reception for heavens sake. But then who watches all these 4 and 5 year olds?
Not only do I have to consider who to invite, but I have to think about where to have the party and then there is, of course, the concern over theme. My son changes his mind on a weekly basis. First it was a Star Wars party. Then it was a dog party. Then a Lego party. I think we are back to desiring the dog party this week but I think he needs to make a choice soon so I can start shopping, (insert sarcasm about my feelings towards shopping here). And if these things are not enough to stress a mom out and make her want to pack up her things in her mom car, drive off and never look back, I just found out during a parent meeting at his preschool last week, that there are four other kids in his class that also share a March birthday. That means five kids having parties spread out over four weekends. I am no math whiz but that does not seem like good odds that his favorite playmates will be at his party. I think I might need to get that Valium sooner than I thought.
I am just hoping to make it through another party planning season without losing my mind. I think I might offer him a trip to Disneyland in place of a party. The cost will probably work out to be the same, maybe even cheaper. I do know one thing. God was smiling down on me when he gave me the baby girl. Her birthday is in July which blesses me doubly. Easy party planning (pool party, duh) and no cupcakes required for school. As long as they don't start doing year round school up here, at least my summers will be relaxed.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens...

Sometimes, life can get you down. Things don't always go the way you plan them to go, and you have to learn to roll with the punches. I have had to do just that a lot in the past couple of years. Having rented homes my entire adult life, I thought owning a home would be fun and satisfying. And it has been for the most part. But of course, things always go wrong when you own a 50 year old home. We have lost water from the well more than once, power lines often get knocked down from the multitude of oak trees surrounding us, and then there are the never ending issues with the age of our home. We have floors that have sagged in several places, pipes that were not connected correctly and if they were connected correctly, they are beginning to rust out. We've had to update our windows and doors just to keep the freezing cold out, and we have walls that still need to be insulated and an electrical system that desperately needs updating. And I haven't even mentioned the snakes, tarantulas, scorpions, bobcats, and coyotes. Sometimes I feel like packing up our things and moving into a nice newer home in town complete with granite counter tops, inside laundry, and all the conveniences of a modern home. But then I remember why we are where we are and it helps me to relax and accept that someday, our home will be done being updated. We'll have added on at least another two bedrooms and another bathroom, and the outside will look as nice I imagine in my head. Someday.
In the meantime, I've created a list of my favorite things about where I live to help me keep my sanity and to help me remember that we have been truly blessed.

I love that this is what I see whenever I drive around my town-

Instead of this-

I love that the little man can learn all about nature, right in our own backyard-

I love that I can have as many of these cuddly things as I can afford to keep-

I love that I can own the most amazing little creatures in the world-

I love that when the little man gets bigger, he can have own his dream horse-

I love that this little guy-

And this big guy, have as much room to run as they could ever desire-

I love that it snows just enough here for us to make snowmen and snow angels, have snowball fights-

sled down our hill, and then it all burns off by the afternoon-

I love that the little guy will grow up wearing hats like these -
I love the views from my property-

And I love this swing-
And the sunsets I can watch from it-

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Future Soccer Mom?

They say the first step is admitting you have a problem, so here goes. Hi, my name is Linda and I desperately want a minivan. That feels better. I actually don't want just any minivan. I want a newish Honda Odyssey Touring Minivan, preferably in a blue pearl. So, what's wrong with that, you ask? I am not a minivan mom. I did not ride a pink bike with tassels as a child nor did I begin planning my wedding at the age of 10. I stripped my Barbie dolls of their pretty garb, cut their hair, and created a Barbie nudist camp in my closet. I rode a yellow bike with a black banana seat and chased my sisters with frogs that my boy friends and I had caught. To be honest with you I really had no clue that I would ever get married and have kids. The way I partied in my twenties I was actually quite surprised to even see thirty come and go.
No, no, no! I am an SUV mom. A mom with a past. A mom who never shied away from dancing on the podiums at The Graduate. A mom who once tricked men into buying her drinks at a club when a boyfriend had cut her off. A mom who kept journals full of crazy adventures, that are now safely stored in a secret location for fear of being discovered. A mom who kissed many boys, some whose names she did not know.
I can't own a minivan! But still it calls to me. The DVD rear entertainment system. The heated leather seats. The FIFTEEN beverage holders. Yes. Fifteen. The satellite navigation system. The in-floor storage. The integrated sun shades in the second row. The reality that I can place my children safely in their own comfortable space and still have them far enough away to not hear them while I drive. It's heaven I tell you!
But unfortunately for me, it is not to be. At least not until I unload the SUV. I have a gorgeous 2003 Toyota Highlander. Leather seats, towing package, moon roof, multi disc CD changer. It comes complete with pen marks on the roof above my son's seat, cheerios and goldfish crackers smashed into the carpets, and various crayons melted into the rear door storage bin. Oh, and six beverage holders. Any takers?

Monday, January 19, 2009

That is deh-custing!

Last week I was again reminded that my son has a refined palate. I'm not sure how such a small child developed such advanced taste buds, but I do know when it all started. From the moment the doctor first gave me the okay to feed the little man solids, he began discerning between crap and deliciousness. I thought he would enjoy the colorful purees that I brought home from the market in their neat little containers, but he turned his head from them. He instead preferred his food freshly cooked and mashed. He did eat the packaged purees occasionally and I kept trying to expand what he would eat.
As a toddler, I distinctly remember an incident at Grandma and Grandpa's where the little man grabbed a tortilla chip from my hand and scooped himself some fresh salsa and didn't even flinch at the heat it gave off. He then double dipped the chip into a tasty guacamole Grandpa had prepared. Delicious, his face read, because he had yet to begin speaking in words. And on another occasion when he was around two, he gobbled down half of my grilled salmon and polished off most of my wild rice as well.
The closest I had gotten him to kid foods he liked was chocolate chip bagels with crunchy peanut butter and sliced banana and the occasional hot dog without the bun. I think he might have eaten mac and cheese once or twice but I don't really remember it ever being a staple. And I know he never wanted a veggie from a can. Before I could figure out what had happened, his repertoire of easy to prepare foods had dwindled down to bacon and scrambled eggs. The kid didn't want easy kid foods that were flavorless. He wanted good food!

You see, "kid" foods were not designed because they are more nutritious. They were created to make the life of a stay at home mom easier. This is of course, my own theory. Mac and cheese, chicken nuggets shaped like dinosaurs, PB & Js. These are the foods kids demand and moms willingly give them. But my son, prefers them not. I partially blame my family. I was not raised on standard American fare so I really have no clue how to cook it. I remember it was Mexican food or we ate out. And now my family continues to eat out. So every time we visit them, my tiny terrorist eats out with us. And we visit a lot. (Hey, I like good food too.)
He has been raised on brie, fig chutney, and rosemary crackers. He has never been known to turn down a bite of a lobster quesadilla and he will always have second helpings should there be any aged cheeses being served. I've seen him devour fried calamari, hummus on crusty bread, tortilla soup and tomato bisque. And he always likes his steak the way it should be eaten, medium rare. I mean, I'm surprised the little guy's not choosing the wine to pair with dinner when we eat out, really.
I know what some have said. Spoiled. Picky eater. Give him whatever you are eating and don't let him make you his short order cook. Well, maybe that's also part of the problem. We eat at home most of the time. But I can't stand packaged meals or most premade ingredients so we eat ribs, steaks, any kind of seafood we can find fresh enough, and lots of roasted chicken. He knows what good food tastes like and he knows how it should smell too.
Which brings us to last week. You see, my husband is not impartial to really good food. He will eat just about anything and he especially likes food that is quick and easy to make. Foods that only require two or three steps to throw together. Foods, that I can't even stand to see in my cupboards. Foods, like Hamburger Helper.
The little man also detests the strange food that comes in that box. My husband had made himself a whole pan full of hamburger helper while the little guy and I were watching a movie in the living room. Within minutes the foul smell was assaulting my olfactory system and apparently the little man's as well. He plugged his nose with his fingers and shouted into the kitchen, "Dad what are you eating? That is deh-custing!!"("disgusting" in little man speak) We laughed to each other and continued to watch our movie. I think I will continue to nurture his love of real food. Maybe he'll be the winner of Top Chef someday or be a restauranteur. Who knows. But at least he'll never demand I make him anything that I myself would rather not eat. And that's just fine with me.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Green acres is the place to be

I grew up in the suburbs. My husband grew up in the country. After we got married we lived in the city and since that rainy day back in 2002 when we moved into our first suburban home together, he has wanted to move back to the country. So, being extremely adaptable and wanting to give my husband his dream of rural life, we packed up our belongings two years ago and moved to the country. Way, way, way out into the country. I have mostly enjoyed the experience. But I honestly had no idea how different life would be. Here is what I see that is so different.

You know you live in the country if...

you know not only the names of all your neighbors, but you also know their phone numbers, what they do for a living, and if they have ever slaughtered an animal.

you see a hawk flying overhead and instead of marveling at its beauty you think to yourself, that damn bird better not poop on my car.

you overhear a conversation at the local market about which shotgun is the best brand to buy, and it's between two women.

you show up to a play date and all three kids are wearing camouflage.

the only market within 20 minutes of your home stocks not only paper goods and soft drinks, but also has a large livestock feed section.

the only other store within 20 minutes of you is a military surplus store.

your babysitter arrives at your home on a horse.

all of your clothing smells like wood smoke.

your husband buys you a pink camouflage t-shirt and a hot pink knife for Christmas.

you actually like the pink camouflage t-shirt and the hot pink knife.

you also want a pink handgun.

you've eaten at least one of your pets.

going into the city to run errands involves as much packing as a two day trip would require.

the only time you ever wash your car is...never.

you have said at least once, "I wish those damn crickets would shut up so I can sleep."

calling 911 for a medical emergency summons a helicopter to your home.

stray dogs, dirt, and the sound of wildlife are things you are exposed to on a regular basis.

it bugs you when city people complain that they have to drive all the way across town for work, when you know across town to them means five miles.

even though you hated the food, you were extremely sad when Foster Freeze closed down because it was the only fast food within 30 miles.

at least one person you know has shot a wild dog.

the sound of gunshots doesn't send you ducking for cover or calling for help.

every day you drive by someone on either a horse or a quad.

you know what donkey basketball is and you look forward to attending the event every year.

you cannot go anywhere without seeing either someone who knows you or someone in your family.

you often forget to lock your doors.

you know that if you were to scream from inside your house, no one would hear you.

you fear coyotes and wild dogs more than criminals.

you know what a "burn day" is and that you need a permit to participate.

sometimes the only thing you hear is the wind.

Monday, January 5, 2009

"Say Mama"

I say this over and over again to my six month old throughout each and every day. I guess I am hoping that somehow by hearing it she will decide to say mama before she says dada. The little man said dada first, despite the reality that I spent 24 hours a day with him, every day of his first year. Now I know what the child development books tell you. It is much easier for a baby to form the "dah" sound than it is for them to form the "ma" sound. That didn't make the disappointment any less. And my daughter already says "Ma" anyway. It matters not that she is saying it while pursing her lips in a cry from the teething pain. I know deep down inside she knows it is my name and she is therefore crying out to the one person she feels can bring her comfort in her time of distress.
Okay, I know that isn't true. But since she is already forming the word she is halfway there. I simply need to teach her the association between the word and the person. Easy! Who am I kidding. I thought until recently that all my son's incredible knowledge had come from you know who. When he was younger, people would tell me how smart he was and how a child his age couldn't possibly know so much. I would beam, (inwardly, of course. I am nothing if not humble.) I would conjure up images in my head of all the hundreds of books I had read to him from the time he was born until that very day. I would imagine all the trips he and I had taken to the zoo, the library, countless museums and aquariums. He didn't read yet. He didn't attend school. His dad mostly took him to Chuck E Cheese. Who else could have taught him so much?
TV. That's right. It turns out the AAP is wrong. TV does not rot the brain but rather enriches it. In a recent conversation my son mentioned a fact about eagles and the eggs they lay. His dad asked him where he had learned this information. I stood smiling by, waiting to hear my husband applaud my incredible talent at teaching our son.
TV he said. To be more exact, Diego had taught him. He also taught him about whale sharks. Do you know mom what a whale shark is, my son asked? Sadly I could not reply. Not only did I have absolutely no idea what in the world a whale shark was, but neither could I believe that TV had also been teaching my son. Okay, I had already known that Spongebob had taught him the word stupid. But he could have done without that little tidbit of information. It turns out he had also learned new things, good things, from Little Bill, Wow Wow Wubbzy, Maggie and the Beast and many other shows for preschoolers.
I have come to terms with the fact that I am not nor will I ever be my son's only teacher. He not only learns from mom and dad, and apparently the TV as well, but whether directly or indirectly, he also learns from his friends and the many people that are part of his small world. And I am mostly okay with that. I have taught him many things and one of those things is that the world around us offers opportunities to learn and grow every day, if we allow ourselves to receive it. And as long as I get to see him develop into his own little person with his own ideas and thoughts, I will be content. He is now in preschool, after all, and he has teachers there that are working diligently to prepare him for kindergarten next year.
But the baby is all mine for at least another year. Well, mine and Baby Einstein's. I do need to shower now and again, after all.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Reflections of a non-portrait picture taker

December 23, 2007

Before the little man was born I vowed that I would get lots and lots of great professional photos taken of him. As the third of three girls I had very few candid photos to prove my existence, and even fewer studio photos. One studio photo to be exact. Well, one of me and another taken the same day of me and my sisters. I swear looking at family photo albums, you would think that my family slowly drifted into poverty as each daughter was born, which was definitely not the case. There are countless studio photos of my oldest sister, and then a few of my other sister, and then of course, the one of me. Now I know that my parents did not see me as any less important than my sisters. They did after all pay money so that I could pursue every one of my many interests from three on; swimming, gymnastics, drums, clarinet, piano, organ, (Okay, that was my dad's desire, not mine. Damn "Pizza and Pipes".) jazz dance, civil air patrol, fiction writing, modeling, and the list goes on and on until adulthood. Okay, it still goes on. But this is not about how spoiled I am. This is about how I came to use Chuck E Cheese, to document my son's growth.
I had the best of intentions. Really. I begged my mom to purchase a Sear's smile saver club membership so that I could forgo any sitting fees until after little man's second birthday. And I even took him. Once. When my parents were here. And my mom asked me to go. And she bought the pictures. And just like my parents, I love my child very much. Maybe too much considering how much time I spend obsessing over every little rash, bloody lip, mild fever, or slight delay in reaching a milestone. I actually wrote out every word he was saying at 24 months, because he was behind on the 18 month old language milestone chart in every parenting book I could get my hands on. Yah. I know. There are a lot of those books. Fortunately at 2 he had a language explosion and all my months of worrying were for nothing. But the point I am trying to make, is that the kid is very important and special to me. You should see our credit card bills. And I haven't been shopping for myself since who knows when so I must be spending it on him.

So, why have I never had more professional photos taken of my little treasure? Because Chuck E Cheese has an excellent photo booth. You have to experience it to know, but let's just say that the picture comes out looking like a portrait. And, it costs a mere token. Could one ask for a better deal? I don't think so. In addition to this magical machine whose workings I cannot understand, they have a camera on one of their kiddy rides, that does an excellent job of capturing a candid moment with Mr. Cheese himself. Okay, okay.
In actuality, I am completely lazy and the idea of wrestling my tiny terrorist into an, itchy, overpriced, worn-only-once, makes-him-look-nerdy, I-hope-it-doesn't-clash-with-the-boring-background, appropriate outfit, and then dragging my sloth-like self to a photo studio filled with snotty nosed tired and hungry kiddies, and then waiting forever for our turn at having the sweet 19 year old "photographer" annoyingly attempt to convince me that I really need 225 photos of the one decent shot, you know to send to all those distant relatives that will open my card, glance at the photo, and then shove it into a dust covered photo box to properly scrapbook at a later date, sounds like a horrible way to spend an otherwise relaxing morning with my little guy.

I'd rather be at Chuck's place, rotting my son's brain on meaningless video games and turning in tickets for cheap, possibly toxic toys made in China for a miniscule fraction of the amount that I have to spend for my son to win them. We have fun there. We laugh and run around, and dance with the giant rat? mouse?, and I get to be a child again right alongside him. These are the memories that I want to preserve. And maybe that is what my parents eventually learned. That the photos mean nothing without the enjoyment behind them and that you can't buy that for $19.95 plus tax. At the very least, his future siblings will never be able to say that I obviously loved the little man more since I cataloged his every milestone in pictures. In fact, his very existence may come into question. As long as they don't get a hold of my credit card statements.

Flatlander Driving School

August 14, 2008

So yesterday I was again stuck behind a flatlander on their way up to the mountains. Okay, I was stuck behind a LOT of them. And I was cursing them. Don't worry, I was alone. But I was really annoyed because I was alone for the first time in a while and I was all set on blaring my Nine Inch Nails, driving entirely too fast, and really enjoying my trip home before coming back to the reality of spit up on my maternity top (yah, I'm still wearing one, a whole month after having the baby, thank you very much) and a preschooler who honestly thinks I want to play Power Rangers with him. Where do they get such crazy ideas? I really don't mean to belittle. I only use the term to separate the valley residents from the foothill folk. I mean come on. I was a flatlander up until last year.

If you have no clue what I mean by flatlander you probably are one yourself. Flatlanders are residents of the lower elevations. Valley dwellers. And every day, those of us who live at the higher elevations are subjected to your shoddy driving skills. It's not entirely your fault. You just aren't accustomed to driving on curvy roads and hills. I really do sympathize with you. But what I do not understand is why many of you insist on staying in the fast lane as the 168 ends. It is perfectly clear that we are going down to one lane but many of you still won't let anyone pass before this happens. Why? As soon as your lane ends, you are going to be traveling at the breakneck speed of forty miles per hour. It is nothing short of excruciating to know that I must now travel for 20 miles up a one lane road behind you. And believe me, I have the missing patch of hair to prove it. So I am here to offer you my wisdom and advice for driving in the foothills.

To begin, understand that most modern day cars come equipped with some type of stability control so you should really not fear turning over as you maneuver through the curves. Don't be afraid to give it a little gas. There really is no need to brake through EVERY curve. Really. Trust me. I have an SUV and I have yet to flip that baby over. And I don't take my curves slow either. If you are that afraid of turning the car over then feel free to fudge the curve a little. That is go a bit over the line. Now, this is only recommended if one can see a ways down the road. Let it not be said that I believe in reckless driving. Come on. I do have kids. But it is in my opinion, that the public works people (whatever, the people who draw the lines on the roads) have tried to take the fun out of driving and have purposely made the curves a little too tight for my liking. So, take your car a bit over the line, and you'll find that the curves are not quite so tight. And you'll save a bit of gas to boot. You know what they say. The shortest distance between two points is a straight line. Now who couldn't use a bit of savings. Am I right?

My next tip is for those of you who are just not going to drive any faster, no matter how many people ride up your tush. Rumor has it that if four cars are following you, and you are going slower than the speed limit, than is it your duty to pull over at the next turn out and let them pass. I have no clue if this is true or not, and despite the fact that my husband is a police officer I really doubt if he knows if this is true either. Here's what I do know. If you are driving like a snail, and some one comes up on you at fifty miles an hour and gets right on your tail, slow down to five miles an hour. What you are doing is rude but what they are doing is much ruder. And just for fun, brake every few feet. Laugh at them when they pass you and wave too. It will feel really great! Now, if you are driving like a ninety year old grandma and someone like me drives up to you, maintains a safe distance, and patiently waits for you to reach a turnout, even if there is only the one car, the kindly country folk thing to do, would be to safely move into the turnout and let me...I mean them, pass. If you practice this manner of driving you will most likely get a friendly wave and perhaps even some fresh veggies from their garden should the person know where you live. Do not continue driving slow as molasses, passing turnout after turnout, and then continue to get annoyed and pissed off because now the driver behind you is inching up on you and starting to wave their arms around and banging on their steering wheel getting obviously angrier by the second because you refuse to grant them the right of way. Just get the heck out of the way.

The country is a really beautiful place and we all enjoy driving in it. But did you know it is also a great place to alleviate stress? So why not take a drive by yourself and bring your loudest music with you. I recommend Nine Inch Nails. Trent Reznor loves shouting obscenities and nothing can make you feel better about your own life than someone singing about how much their life sucks. Turn up the volume, roll down the windows, and enjoy!

As a side note I feel I must address the cycling enthusiasts. It seems since that Lance Armstrong fellow came along, cycling has become a cool thing to do and not what it really is, a sport for people who can't really do sports. I mean come on. Guys that shave their legs? That's just too weird for words. I don't share the roads with cyclists and neither should you. Maybe I wouldn't be so perturbed but I can't help it. I have to drive these roads to get to and from my home. Cyclists have what are known as "BIKE PATHS" at many local parks. They should stay on them. But no. They come up here. And not only do they ride their bikes in what are really just skin tight leotards, but they ride side by side. So every time I come around a blind curve, even if I'm only going five miles an hour, I have to worry about hitting them. Fun, huh? I get the allure of riding in the country, but perhaps it would be wiser to ride somewhere that actually has a shoulder to the road. And then maybe, ride in it.

Anyway, I have always enjoyed driving on mountain and foothill roads. So much so that while living in the bay area and going to college, I did my research and purchased the poor man's Porsche, a Ford Probe. Oh yes folks. Envy me if you must. I would if I were you. That baby hugged the curves of the north bay mountain roads like a dream. And while the body was not anywhere near as stylish and attractive as a Porsche, that's not why I purchased my dream car. On my days off from work and school I would take her out and drive up and down the hills by myself for hours, blaring my music and clearing my mind. I finally graduated from college and had to sell my beauty. I got my degree from San Jose State and per my school's requirement, I had to buy myself a brand new Honda Civic. But I digress. I hope I have helped assist you valley folk in navigating the foothill roads and perhaps made the driving a little less scary for you. One last tip. If you ever find yourself behind a diesel truck, find yourself a turnout, preferably one with some cool rock formations, light up a Marlboro if you so fancy one, and whip out the camera. You are going to be there for a while. Those big diesel spewing trucks, especially the Ford 450s, hauling horse trailers, are completely oblivious to anyone behind them. They drive about two miles per hour, and they shoot out toxic fumes that linger for hours. So have yourself a rest, and take some cool photos of your friends on those giant rocks. And next time you find yourself driving in front of country folk and you're going thirty, pull over. We just might throw you a wave!

The Pig

September 13, 2008

We own a pig. We live out in the sticks so for the same reason that we own an above ground pool, we own a pig. Like shooting guns on the weekend or listening to country music, it is an "I-live-out-in-the-sticks" requirement. Anyway, with the cost of groceries going up we also thought it would be economical to raise our own food. The garden idea was a fabulous one! We were buying expensive vegetables that were often going to waste in our fridge. Now we have a great big garden that we planted for very cheap and nothing goes to waste. If we don't eat it the animals do. At first thought, the pig idea was a good one too. We got him for free from my sister in law. We planned to give him rotted veggies and table scrapes. So my husband built him a pen next to the goats and we brought the cute little pink guy home. He looked exactly like Babe. And that is where the similarities ended. Unlike Babe, who is extremely well trained, astonishingly clean, and somehow manages to stay small throughout that oddly endearing film, Pig, as we choose to call him since it is never good to name an animal you plan to eat, is overwhelmingly smelly, excrutiatingly stubborn, completely filthy, and growing at quite a quick pace. He also somehow manages to escape from his pen on a daily basis. Oh yes, if we ever had any reservations about eating him in the beginning we certainly have none now. This little fellow is going to make some fine ribs, bacon and pork butt for my family of meat eaters.
I admit that the little man was a bit upset at first when he learned of Pig's ultimate fate. And yes I had to tell him. I didn't want him forming an attachment to the thing like he does with every other living creature that he sees. And it just so happens that little man's two favorite meats are bacon and ham. And really, this is not some soft kid here. He understands the circle of life. He's seen his dad shoot snakes. He knows his rabbit died of heat stroke and that a coyote killed some of his smallest pygmy goats. He has collected the eggs from the chickens and gleefully whipped them up into a breakfast burrito. But the pig. Well, this was a little different. I think it has to do with that Babe movie. But do not despair because he finally turned a corner the day that Pig ate Lenny's food. Lenny is the little man's dog. Little man loves Lenny. While he watched Pig tear into the garbage can containing Lenny's precious kibble he caught a glimpse of something he had never quite taken notice of before. His ears. Pig's ears were the same shape as the "pig" ears that the man down at the feed store gave to him whenever he went to buy goat food. The little man finally put it together that the man had been giving him these animal's ears to give to Lenny! Now he keeps asking when we are going to kill Pig so he can give Lenny his ears. Ah yes. The circle of life.

I too am wondering when my husband is going to get around to doing the deed. I sometimes feel like I am living on Green Acres, the TV show. You know the one where the pig, Arnold, ran amuck through the town?
I'll look out my window to see my goats grazing on the hill behind our home. Aw. Aren't they cute. Look at them running and making those cute little jumps in the air. I love it when they....wait. What is that? Is that....Is that Pig? Oh no. Sweetheart, heeeeeeeelp!!! Pig is out of his pen again!!!!!
At this point Pig has eaten his way through approximately 25 large bags of dog food. At this rate, this pork is going to end up costing us around $15 a pound. Now what was our reason for getting this pig again?

R.I.P. Pig
Thanks for the delicious ribs buddy!

Does pretend food have calories?

September 22, 2007

My wonderfully imaginative son has recently decided that he is a cooker guy. So I have been spending quite a lot of time eating pretend food. His latest creation was a beautiful masterpiece of crayon cake. Mmmm. I can still taste the sweetness on my tongue.

Although his delictable dishes are not entirely filling, they got me to thinking, could my family actually subsist on pretend food? My husband has this fantasy that while he goes out and earns the dough I will stay at home and cook with it. And I really do try. But some days it just doesn't happen and he arrives home to a messy house, a naked three year old who is screaming that he will not wear anything but the red pajamas that are in the wash, and no dinner on the proverbial table. Or on the real table for that matter. I, of course, could exist on goldfish and Coca Cola Zero indefinitely, and the little man is the one who keeps the Wonder Bread guys and peanut farmers in business. But my husband. My husband wants a home cooked meal. The kind that he was raised on. The kind that sends him drifting off to a happier and simpler time when he ran wild in the fields and hunted for bugs and other boyish things. And it's not like I can't cook those kinds of meals. I often surprise myself at how well I can cook when I am given the time to do so. But that brings me back to the kid. The cooker guy. Lately, I spend so much of every day eating his wonderful pretend creations that I often find myself out of time to make any real ones. Thank God for Cena. This wonderful little establishment has been placed on this Earth to save my marriage. From now on my husband will have his home cooked meal and I will have the privilege of enjoying my little guy's company over a slice of Lego pie and tea. The world will all be right again. That is until laundry time. Does anyone know where I can round up some pretend clean clothes?

Pioneer Woman

October 20, 2007
I had an epiphany last week.

We are as strong as we allow ourselves to be.

This might seem pretty obvious to some but it hasn't been that clear for me in my life.

This great insight came to me as I was showering in our poorly lit, extremely small, and desperately in need of a cleaning, stall shower in our master bath.

As I was rinsing the shampoo from my hair, I turned to face the wall, and mere inches from my face was a rather large spider.

He or she was just hanging there in it's web, not seeming to care that an intruder had entered it's dark little space.

In my past life, before moving out to this rural landscape filled with tarantulas, scorpions, rattlesnakes, coyotes, and mountain lions, I lived in a nice, practically bug and predator free, suburban neighborhood, where the sight of a spider such as my shower companion, would have sent me dripping wet and screaming out into the living room, in search of my husband to kill the foul thing.

But this time I did nothing of the sort.

I just continued on with my shower and perhaps I even admired the spider's web and how amazing it is that the water sends it waving back and forth without ever breaking it.

What kind of a woman does this, you might ask yourself. Is she brave beyond comprehension? Does she have nerves of steel and fears nothing?


But this is when I experienced the epiphany.

I used to watch that show Little House on the Prairie as a kid, and I even read some of Ms.Wilder's books.

All the time I was admiring how brave and amazing these women were.

These women who spent every day from sun up until sun down tending to their homes and land, often doing the work of their husbands, who had to travel miles and miles to sell what they grew and created on their farms.

These women, it seemed to me, were fearless.

They braved snow storms and torrential rains, every predator from animal to man, and even sickness and disease without the benefits of modern medicine.

And I used to wonder how would I fare if I were in their shoes?

Would I be able to tame the wild countryside while still laughing and relishing every moment on this beautiful earth?

Would I continue to praise and give thanks to God for all my blessings when I am faced with scorpions in my bathroom, mice in my cupboards, rains flooding my foundation, and no heat to warm my home?

Back then I thought, not a chance.

I could not live like those women.

I am not that strong.

And while I am not where I am because I have no where else to live, I am still here for a better life.

A life that has spiritual meaning.

A life that is as close to what God intended, living off the land and being led by his Spirit, as I can possibly get in the 21st century.

And guess what?

I am that strong.

Not by choice or by chance, but because it is required of me.

Because God has granted me that strength.

Because I am that pioneer woman.

I have faced and will most likely face again, tribulations of no water, no heat, predators killing my animals, and threatening my child, and trying to live off the land without my husband to rescue me at every turn.

And I enjoy it.


I didn't think I would ever say it, but that spider in my shower, he's another one of God's creatures, just like me, trying to survive in an untamed world.

And I am as strong as I allow myself to be.

A miracle has happened

October 4th, 2007

And I was not there to relish it! My husband took the little man into town yesterday to pick up some things from the store. He found a parking spot, got him out of the car, found a cart, and started grabbing some things off the shelves. Apparently during this whole time, about ten minutes, little man had not said a single word. Anyone who has been around the kid recently, knows this is quite different from his normal behavior since he has the potential to become the country's best filibusterer with his penchant for extended monologues about who knows what that can often last for minutes on end. (Not really sure from where he gets that.) The kid likes to talk and does so. Often. For hours at a time. Sometimes even inventing words just to fill in dead air. So much so that a child in his preschool class thought he was speaking Spanish. (He wasn't.) And he usually adds "mama" about every five words or so. You see why I say this was a true miracle. Anway, back to the scene at the store. Curiousity finally got the better of my husband. He looked at the quiet one and said, "Little man, you haven't said a single word since we got out of the car. Is something wrong?"With the wisdom and composure that should far exceed that of a three year old, the kid looked back at him and simply stated, "I don't have any more words dada. I just ran out."

The Money Pit

originally written on:
Sunday, February 25, 2007

I saw the movie years ago and at the time I had no idea that my life would one day be imitating art. And yet here I am, living in the money pit. Okay, it isn't quite as bad as the movie and we are actually happy we own our home but if Murphy's Law has ever happened anywhere, it has happened here for the past three weeks. I'll explain. We moved to the property of our dreams a few weeks ago which we had purchased in 2004 after only a quick viewing with the real estate agent. The property was gorgeous, and the price was right, but the house was no where near ideal. Still, we knew we'd never get a better deal in California so we went for it. After several years of seeing other people live in our home, my husband finally got a job in the area and we moved in to our little fixer-upper. From the moment we arrived everything that could go wrong, did.We moved in without our dryer hooked up and with the prospect of it not being hooked up for at least a week, things did not look good. I'm sure many of you would say, no big deal. Go to the laundromat. But when the nearest one is 30 miles away, it just isn't an option. So, the dirty clothes piled up and once we finally had the dryer working, the washing machine broke. Somehow, my wannabe Mr. Fix-it husband got it working again, as long as you don't mind running the spin cycle several times per load to get the water out. I am still trying to make a dent in the clothes that accumulated during that time. But at least it works. I thought having conquered the laundry quandary that I could then handle anything. I was very, very wrong.Within days of settling in we discovered that the entire house had been left floating freely over its piers. While our contractor friend was looking into our legal options, we were left to worry about what we could do in the meantime. A few days later the kitchen was being leveled out temporarily using shims. Hey, at least the house stopped shaking every time you walked through the kitchen. The living room was reinforced with some type of wood plank things ( I am obviously home repair challenged) and although not quite level, at least it won't crumble should there be an earthquake. I hope.While under the house fixing the floor problem, it was discovered that there was and still is standing water under a couple of rooms. Part of it caused by the rain water not draining away from the house and part of it caused by the fact that the master bath(if you can call it that) has no pipe connection from the sink so that all the sink water is just draining into the dirt under our house. Nice, huh? Yah, I think the guy that moved our house here from the city did an outstanding job of getting it ready to be put on the market. Right. I just hope we can find the guy so that I can give him a piece of my mind and make him pay for some or ALL of the so-far-from-being-up-to-code-it's-not-even-funny work he did on this house.So we finally had the floor thing worked out and things were going pretty good when it just happened to snow here. We are at an elevation of about 2500 feet so snow is not a common thing to see. But we were excited when the flakes started to fall a few nights ago. By the time we had the little guy in bed I started to feel a bit chilly and noticed that the central heat thermostat read, 66 degrees, despite having set it at 69. We could not figure out why it was shooting out cool air and thankfully we had a portable heater that kept us warm all night long. When we woke up in the morning the ground was covered with snow and the thermostat read 60 degrees. I tried to ignore the fact that it was so cold inside and went outside with my guys to play in the snow. Later I looked up our heating system online and discovered that the previous owner had once again been using shady methods to get the home ready for sale. He had managed to side step offering central heat while still stating that the home did indeed have it. You see, he installed a system on the home that is actually meant to be quite energy efficient. The system takes the air from outside, passes it through a bunch of coils, and then forces the air, either warmed in the winter, or cooled in the summer, into the house. Unfortunately, the system was not meant to be installed as the sole means of heat, and if the temperatures drop too low, the system switches to aux heat. Most times that would mean a furnace would take over, but in our case it meant no heat. To make things worse, if the coils freeze from the snow, the system shifts into defrost and while doing its thing, sends cool air through the house. But at least the air was warmer than the 20 something degrees it was outside. We learned the next night just how cold a house can get when the heat is gone completely.The afternoon after our snow we finally had heat again, but quickly lost it in the evening when 2 power poles had failed. We also lost our only means of cooking, our lights, and all water from our well. Most of those things would have been okay to be without for a short time, but it was frigid outside and our home quickly started to become the same. By 11pm when I finally decided to go to bed, it was about 57 degrees in the house. The three of us bundled up in bed under a mountain of blankets. We stayed fairly warm until the next morning. The thermostat read 46 degrees. Inside the house. my dear husband had to sleep for work so he was lucky enough to be under cover, but the little man and I finally decided to start the car and climb inside for some heat. I cooked breakfast on the side burner of our BBQ, and we watched a movie in the car until 9:30am when the power finally came back on.That morning, I lost it. My husband thought I had had a nervous breakdown and I quite felt like it. But I think having had one thing after another go wrong had finally gotten to me. I wanted to run away from our home and check into a nice Hilton hotel or something. But now that the snow has cleared and the heat is once again working, I have been able to remember why we are so blessed to be where we are. We have a beautiful piece of land, and a mostly functional home, with heat and food and even a couple of fuzzy TV channels with the help of rabbit ears, and I know that there are so many that cannot say that. Having lived without heat for just one night has given me insight into how so many of our nation's homeless live every day in the winter. And without the luxury of blankets. I now I have a new sadness for those less fortunate than us and I appreciate my own little money pit even more now. And all of this experience reminds me of something someone sent me during the holidays. I don't know who to attribute the credit to but it is not mine, although I can definitely apply it to my life these days.

I am thankful for...
...the mess to clean up after a party
because it means I have been surrounded by friends.
...the taxes I pay
because it means that I'm employed.
...the clothes that fit a little too snug
because it means I have enough to eat. shadow who watches me work
because it means I am out in the sunshine.
...the spot I find at the far end of the parking lot
because it means I am capable of walking.
...all the complaining I hear about our government
because it means we have freedom of speech.
...that lady behind me in church who sings off key
because it means that I can hear.
...lawn that needs mowing, windows that need cleaning & gutters that need fixing
because it means I have a home. huge heating bill
because it means that I am warm.
...weariness and aching muscles at the end of the day
because it means that I have been productive.
...the alarm that goes off in the early morning hours
because it means that I am alive.

So, yes, we live in the money pit. But I am extremely thankful for it. It is our home and our little bit of heaven. And I can see my husband and I sitting in our swing decades from now, watching the sun set over the foothills, talking about our hopes and dreams, and laughing about all our mishaps and adventures we have had here. And I will still be thankful.