Saturday, December 26, 2009

Christmas Day in the (very early) Morning

"A froggie! It's what I always wanted!!!"*

And with that, Christmas Day officially began.

The day unofficially began when Cameron arrived at our bedside sometime before solar dawn. He was told to take himself back to bed in no uncertain terms. The next kid to appear was Claire, dragging her Purple Blanket, who climbed in next to her dad and promptly went back to sleep. Next was Aeron, who wanted to know if it was now Christmas Day. When I told her yes, she squealed with joy, climbed into the bed and started to shake me, saying, "Mama! Come on! Time to open presents!!! Come on!!"

I managed to stall for a few more minutes by asking Aeron to go tell her sister Kayla it was finally Christmas Day. The little girl scampered off and Miles, Claire and I got a few more minutes of horizontal. But Aeron came back rather quickly, saying Kayla told her it was too early and to go away. Then Cameron was back, and as it was (barely) daylight, we surrendered to the inevitable. Cameron was instructed to go turn on the coffee maker and we sent Aeron back to roust Kayla.

We had a lovely time opening gifts, with lots of squeals and shouts from the younger 3. Gifts of clothing and books and a few toys and gadgets were opened and exclaimed over. A few photos were taken.

Pam was supposed to roust Terry and Trevor and come to our house to have brunch and open more gifts. As of 9:30am, someone who shall remain nameless still wasn't out of bed. So, we decided to pack up our show and take it down to SLO. We got out the door in record time and descended on the San Luis Clarks.

Santa bags were opened and more oohs and ahhs were heard. Then I took a break to get the cinnamon rolls in the oven, along with my veggie strata. Once the cooking chores were done, we moved on to the living room, to open more gifts. Everyone was very pleased with the wonderful presents. Then, weary from opening Christmas gifts, we repaired to the dining room to stuff ourselves silly with brunch. So silly in fact, no one wanted dinner that evening.

The older two went off to their mom's house and they rest of us had some downtime. I had a nap, since I hadn't gotten to sleep until sometime after 2am that morning. When Miles returned from delivering Kayla and Cam to Atascadero, we plunked the little girls in front of the video babysitter. And opened still yet more gifts (I'm so glad we cut back this year....)

When the Templeton Clarks finally crawled home, we were all tired and mellow after a happy day.

* Claire found a frog bath sponge in her stocking. Aeron got a duckie.

Friday, December 18, 2009

The run up to Christmas

Ah, the holiday season! The cookie-baking, decorating the tree, the shopping.... Followed by the sweeping the flour off the floor, sweeping up the shattered glass ornaments, the scrabble to find receipts....

Every year, Miles and I wonder how we can possibly recapture the magic of the Christmases of our youth. When is it going to "feel like Christmas"? I have come to the conclusion that it simply ain't gonna happen.

See, now, we're the grownups. It's our job to do the work so our kids can enjoy the season.

This year Claire & Aeron are really aware and enjoying the whole Christmas shtick. They were thrilled to get our tree, sobbed when told we had to wait for Daddy to set up the tree in the living room, gleefully pulled lights and ornaments out of boxes, and stuffed Santa hats on their heads. They have decorated gingerbread cookies with globs of frosting and sprinkles and been found hiding in the kitchen, eating those cookies when they weren't supposed to. (how long before they figure out it's the frosting on their faces that gives 'em away?) I've decided I can't possibly put any gifts under the tree yet; their little heads will explode with excitement, then they would tear them open.

Kayla seems pretty indifferent to the whole thing. She's got other stuff to worry about; her social life, the Mock Trial team, buckets of homework, climate change. Cameron is still got the little kid attitude. He's having a great time with the Advent Calendar Chris & Caitlin sent, he fusses when our kitten pulls ornaments off the tree, he goes to school wearing his Santa hat.

Another reason not to put gifts under the tree; Mitzi. She is having the time of her young kitten life pouncing on just about everything. Most mornings there are a half-dozen ornaments on the floor. Any scrap of paper or ribbon is a cat toy. The tree is also very pounce-worthy; I have asked Miles to secure the tree to the wall just in case Mitzi tries to climb it.

It's also a sad time of year for the Kurths and related clans. We've lost quite a few family members in the last years, all between Thanksgiving and Christmas. My grandmother, my uncle and my mom. The year my mother died, we lost two in one week; Mom and Great-Uncle Hazen. So, for me, the holidays are rather bittersweet. I'm never going have a Thanksgiving or Christmas like I had when I was a kid. I need to make new family memories. But now, I'm the adult. It's quite an adjustment.

That said, we have a nice holiday planned. Trevor arrives tomorrow and will be in San Luis for two weeks. Christmas Eve we will have the traditional Clark Enchilda feed, followed by the family church service at Atascadero UMC. I'm singing again this year; it'll be interesting to see if my girls can hold it together during the service. Then Christmas morning, Pam, Terry and Trevor will come to our house to open gifts and have brunch. The cherry on top will be a visit from the Dodges for New Year's Eve.

It's not like it was. But that's ok.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Stalling tactics

Aeron and Claire have reached the phase where they will do just about anything they can think of to stall at bedtime. This past Thanksgiving weekend, we had house guests, a couple of folks my girls are very fond of. Bedtime, thus, became a real challenge.

The girls were down, and the grownups were sitting downstairs, enjoying a well-deserved glass of wine. Rare, stimulating conversation having nothing to do with child-rearing was being had by the fire, when Claire calls out from her room. Due to architecture, it's quite easy to hold a conversation between the girls' room and the living room.

"Mom! I have to tell you something"

"What, Clairezie?"

"Mom! I'm looking at this book, and these bugs are really cool! I wanna show you!"

"Show me in the morning, Clairezie."

There is a pause as she considers this. "Okay. Nite Mom!"

Our guests grin at the exchange, then we again start talking about grown-up things. (I used more polysyllabic words this past weekend than I have in years...)

20 minutes later, I see movement out of the corner of my eye, near the stairs. I'm pretty sure I know who's lurking.

"What are you doing, little girl?" Claire shuffles over to the sofa, insect book in hand, trying to look worried, yet, a little smirk keeps appearing on her face. Like she's out-smarted Mama.

"Mom. This book... look, see this bug?" pointing to the picture of a potato bug, eyes wide.


"It's freaking me out!"

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

a famous question

Back in the day when I had cable, I was a huge fan of "Inside the Actor's Studio". Not because I ascribe to "the Method" (quite the opposite, actually) but because I loved to watch James Lipton interview some of the very best in the business. Lipton is known for doing two weeks of research on each guest, and also, famously asks a series of questions that he lifted from Bernard Pivot, who pinched it from Proust.

  1. What is your favorite word?
  2. What is your least favorite word?
  3. What turns you on?
  4. What turns you off?
  5. What sound or noise do you love?
  6. What sound or noise do you hate?
  7. What is your favorite curse word?
  8. What profession other than your own would you like to attempt?
  9. What profession would you not like to do?
  10. If Heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the Pearly Gates?

It was my favorite part of the program. (Question 7 always prompts the guest to ask "can I say it on cable?" When Lipton reassures his guest that it's cool to cuss, they invariably let fly with relish!) But it's the last question that interests me the most. I've given this a lot of thought and here's what I've come up with:

"Hey there, Jen! Glad to see ya! The Library of All Knowledge is right through there; there's fresh Peet's coffee and California wine available at all times. Choir practice is at 7pm on the biggest cloud. Welcome home."

So, how would you answer?

Sunday, November 15, 2009


Here's the scene: Sunday morning, about 7am. The morning light coming softly through the window, birds chirping gently, warm, snoozing husband in the bed next to me. All is right with the world....then, the kitten pounces on my face.

I thrash up from under the covers, pushing the spaz kitten off of me and notice Aeron standing next to the bed.

"Good morning, Mama!" she chirps.

"Aeron, honey." I flop back down into the pillows. "Mama is still sleeping. Please go read a book or something in the other room."

"I want you, Mama!" she insists.

"Aeron. I'm still sleeping, go into the other room. "

"But, Mama.....", loudly. Miles isn't making a sound, the faker.

"Aeron, you're disturbing me. Go into the other room."

"I won't disturb you!" at high volume.

"You're disturbing me now."

"I'm not gonna disturb you!!" at even higher volume.

Finally, I sit up in bed, give her "the look" and point towards the door. Aeron runs out of the room and begins to cry and wail for Daddy.

"Boy. She just doesn't get a clue, does she?" remarks the lump on the other side of the bed. Then the kitten pounces on my face again.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Select photos of the Uber-Cuties.

At the butterfly exhibit at the Santa Barbara Natural History Museum.

With Uncle Chris.

With Lucie-Bug Dodge.

On the way to school.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Super Gra-Maw

For those who read my blog or are my friend on Facebook, you will no doubt be aware of how much grief the little girls have been giving me lately. They are willful, and argumentative, they dawdle slower than a iceberg, they ask incessant questions. And at the risk of repeating myself, there are two of 'em!

It just seems to get harder and harder. 3 was much worse than 2, and 4 is worse than 3!

So, this was the state of affairs at the Clark homestead by Sunday afternoon: the weekend had been brutal. The girls had been eating amazing amounts of sugar all weekend (Halloween, you know) and they were constantly pleading for more. Claire refused to nap, and so was fractious and sobbing at the drop of a hat. I was trying to get dinner prepped, our new kitten Mitzi was very ill with a nasty upper respiratory infection and the girls wouldn't leave her alone. I was about ready to go bang my head on the wall when......

Super Gra-Maw arrived!

My father-in-law had left town, so Pam was having dinner and spending the night. She walked in and was immediately tackled by Claire and Aeron. When the girls would fuss, for instance, where who was gonna sit where at the dining table, Pam would step in and calmly resolve the problem.

We had a nice Sunday dinner. Afterwards, Pam started in on the dishes and shooed Miles and I out the door to take a walk. We had a nice walk in the moonlight and by the time we got back, she had the girls in the tub and all the dishes washed. More evidence of her super-powers: the twins were fussing about having a bath, so Gra-Maw asked if they wanted to have a "pool party". With bubbles! The girls practically dove into the tub.

After the party, Gra-Maw shoveled the girls into clean jammies, and read a whole bunch of books. After we tucked 'em in, there was some fussing, but Super Gra-Maw nipped it in the bud.

The next morning, the girls were fed, dressed and out the door in record time. Super Gra-Maw not only helped with the morning routine, she also had the girls make their beds! I even was able to eat some breakfast before taking the girls to school; that never happens.

If only I could get her to move in......

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Cameron's first Band Concert

Tonight, for the first time, Cameron played his trombone in a band concert. This was the combined beginning band at Templeton Middle School. Which means about 75 sixth graders honking, squeaking and banging away on their new tubas, clarinets and saxophones. (no strings, thank god!)

The Templeton PAC was filled to the rafters; a standing-room only crowd of proud parents and grandparents, with a sprinkling of bored siblings and over-excited under-five-year-olds. The new band geeks were given enthusiastic cheers and applause, with lots of hooting and catcalls from the Concert Band kids. Claire and Aeron were reasonably well behaved, as Gra-Maw and I were muttering threats into their ears the whole time. "If you don't settle down, I take you home right now!"

Well, except for the part where Aeron mooned the audience.

Oh, yes she did!

It was during intermission. People were chatting, kids were rampaging. I was talking with Andrew's mom and I look around and I see Aeron's bare backside.

"What on earth are you doing?!?" Luckily, it was very noisy, so no one really heard my shriek of horror.

No answer, just giggles.

I grabbed the kid, pulled her pants up and proceeded to give her a stern talking-to. She was immediately contrite.

Never a dull moment, huh?

Monday, October 26, 2009

Itsy Bitsy Mitzi

Introducing the newest member of the Clark Clan.

Mitzi is about 7 weeks old and about 2lbs. We adopted her from the county shelter. Mitzi and her 3 siblings were found at just a few days old, with their umbilical cords still attached.

She is a sweet kitty; very, very friendly. She likes to fall asleep on the chest or shoulder of anyone who will pet her. Mitzi is also a licker. She will wash any bit of skin she can get to! She's standing up to Claire and Aeron, though if they get too rowdy, she skedaddles.

We are all happy with our new kitty.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

The pumpkin patch

Halloween has to be one of the favorite holidays of any child. You get to dress up, run around after dark and grown ups give you candy! How cool is that?

Another great part of the fun is pumpkins. Going to the pumpkin patch, choosing the perfect pumpkin, making an unholy mess carving the pumpkin, squishing the pumpkin guts.

On Saturday, Miles and I took the 3 younger kids to a local farm to get pumpkin. A great time was had by all.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

The Pollan row

I attended the panel discussion with Michael Pollan at Cal Poly today. For those unfamiliar with Pollan's work, he is the author of, amongst other works, "The Omnivore's Dilemma", a vastly popular look at 4 meals, from the field or ranch to the table. Pollan is an extremely vocal critic of industrial agriculture.

Pollan was supposed to have delivered a lecture. But a major donor to the College of Ag, Harris Ranch, threatened to withdrawn it's support if Pollan was allowed to speak, without presenting a "balanced" view.

Cal Poly pussed out. The lecture was changed to a panel discussion. All the introductory remarks, by the Dean of Ag and then the moderator, included hopes about respect for divergent opinions.

Pollan addressed this issue first off, despite the moderator attempting to dive right in. He called kow-towing to donors a threat to academic freedom. And I agree. Will Cal Poly now check with it's donors to see if all the speakers invited to address students are acceptable?

Dr. Gary Smith, an academic meat-science guy from Colorado State, thinks food should be cheap and convenience food should be available so all those soccer moms can be chauffeurs for their children, instead of slaving away all day in the kitchen. Pollan replied that, yes, organic, free-range foods are more expensive. But there is a correlation between the availability of cheap, fast food and the epidemic of obesity and Type 2 diabetes in this country. That crap that looks cheap costs us plenty. Would you rather pay the farmer, or the doctor?

One point made was the almost complete disappearance of home economics programs in schools. Home Ec, not just for girls, for everyone. The audience endorsed this idea with a round of applause. Earlier this week, I assembled a pot of turkey chili, enough for 3 meals. We had one meal yesterday and the other two are in the freezer. It took a total of 15 minutes prep time. Are we as Americans truly that busy in our multi-tasking, over-scheduled lives that no one has time to throw a batch of soup in a crock pot? And what about these kids being schlepped around? Don't they have feet? Couldn't they ride a bike to some of their activities? Also, a 14 year old should be perfectly capable of preparing a decent meal. Scramble an egg and make a piece of toast, at the very least?

Pollan's final point was that farmers have one answer to climate change. Apparently, and I didn't know this, soil can hold amazing amounts of CO2. By supporting sustainable farming techniques, we can help combat global warming AND eat better and enjoy better health. It's a win-win-win situation.

I'd have to say that Harris Ranch gave this event more steam than it probably wanted to. The PAC was full, mostly with supporters of Pollan's ideas. The conversations I heard, the tee shirts wore by the attendees, the flyers distributed, all lead me to believe that David Wood shot his company in the foot. It would be very interesting to see the profit and loss statement for this company for the month of October.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Well, we needed the rain

The first major storm of the season blew in today, complete with heavy rain and wind advisories. It rained all day long. California has been in a drought for, I dunno, 7 years? We really did need the rain. Plus, we'd had unseasonably high temperatures into September. We were all ready for cooler weather. But the collateral damage has been... interesting.

My mother, the gardener, used to refer to the branches and leaves stripped from the vegetation during a storm as "Mother Nature's pruning."

Mother Nature pruned with a buzz saw and a bulldozer this time.

We live in oak savanna. Rolling hills, studded with coast live oak, blue oak and valley oak. All of these trees are protected by law. You practically need an Act of Congress to remove one. But they are brittle. They don't really bend in the wind.

During this storm, Mother Nature did a number on the oaks. Our next door neighbors lost a large branch from the live oak in the front yard; luckily, it didn't hit the house. Driving in our neighborhood was an obstacle course of downed branches and debris. Trees were down at the park, and I saw Asst. Fire Chief Hewitt, standing in the rain and wind, directing traffic away from work crews dealing with the fallen trees.

The worst we heard about was some good friends who had oak branches come down on their house and crushed the main beam, destroying their living room and forcing the family out. They are looking at 2 to 3 months of repair before their home is again livable.

We lost power here in Mayberry for a couple of hours. The whole town was dark and all the local businesses gave up and closed. As I drove about town, I dodged branches, road construction signs and garbage cans that had blown into the street. There was also lots of flooding, which was hard to see ('cause what street lights we have weren't working) until plumes of water were flying. I saw the employee parking lot of the Trader Joe's emptying like rats abandoning a sinking ship. Luckily, I had made most of our dinner before the electricity went out. Miles and Cameron grilled chicken on the gas BBQ, and we dined by candle light. Cam and the little girls had a blast with flashlights, and Claire made a groan of disappointment when the light came back on.

Frog Creek, the seasonal stream behind our house has been dry since last March. It's over flowing it's banks now.

I guess this is a fabulous example of "be careful what you wish for."

Friday, October 9, 2009

My kids are driving me batshit

OK, so, it's the end of a busy week and every one of my kids has been doing their utmost to drive me mental.

Kayla has been really off her game this week. She's forgotten about homework assignments, her keys, her cell phone, even to lock doors. The icing on the cake was when she almost ran over her brother, then hit the recycle bin while driving my minivan.

Aside: Papa - you were so right!

Cameron made some profoundly bad choices this week. He'll be scrubbing bathrooms and pulling weeds all weekend.

Aeron had another ear infection, along with an infection in her left eye. Naturally, her sleep has been rather fitful and her mood not quite as sun-shiny.

Claire actually has been the best of the bunch, but even she has been uncooperative. And loud.

OK. Done complaining.

Monday, October 5, 2009

In the middle of the night, episode 9


Coughing from the girls' room. I'm pretty sure it's Claire.

Ah, she stopped.

A few minutes later.... more coughing. Again, she stops.

This goes on for, I dunno, 20 minutes? I'm trying to sleep, so I'm not really sure.

Then Claire really gets down to business, coughs, barks, and then starts wailing. I stumble into the room. Claire is sitting up, hair on end, tangled in the covers.

"Mom!" she sobs, "where's Gra-Maw?!?"

"Gra-Maw is on her way to see Uncle Trevor."

"Oh!" still sobbing.

"Lay down, sweetie. Here's your bear. Do you want some water?" I asked. "Yes!" volume a bit reduced.

I get the kid a drink, get her to snuggle in the covers and she promptly falls back asleep. I'm tip-toeing out when I hear a calm voice from Aeron's side of the room.

"I didn't cry."

Resigned, I stop at Aeron's bed. "Nope, you didn't, Boo."

"Claire did. She was crying and she woke up me!"

"Claire was coughing, honey. She can't help it. Go back to sleep." I tuck her in, kiss her forehead and leave. I'm half way back to my room when....

"Mom! Can I have a drink?"

They are doing this on purpose, I swear. They want me to be sleep deprived and cranky; that's the only explanation.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

In the middle of the night, episode 8

Oh, Claire was in rare form last night. She woke up crying 4 times!



"I want Daddy!"

Daddy heard this, as the child has a voice a Wagnerian soprano would envy. He went in, I climbed back into bed and resumed sipping my champagne. Miles wasn't gone very long and once more the house was peaceful.



"You're up, Daddy" says Mama.

Miles leaves again, and again, comes back quickly.

"Well?" I asked.

"She just misses me." Daddy didn't look too flattered by this, for some reason.


My turn.

"Claire, honey?"

Sobs, "Mom! There's a spider web!"

"No, sweetie. There's no spider web. It's just a dream. Go back to sleep."

Sniffle. "Ok, Mom."


"Claire! For crying out loud, what?!?" I loudly whisper.

"I forgot to give you a hug!"

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

In the middle of the night, episode 7


Sobbing from the girls' room. Sounds like Claire.


"Clairezie, honey, what's wrong?"

"Mom! I wanna be 4 years old!"

"Claire. You are 4 years old."

She stops sobbing. "Oh."

"G'nite Claire."

"Nite, Mom."

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Contentment in the 'burbs

It was a beautiful day today; warm and sunny, with refreshing breezes.

Claire, Aeron and I took a walk around the neighborhood before lunch. The girls ran down the sidewalk, picked up sticks, smelled flowers and admired a neighbor's apple tree. (I know some of my readers are gagging about now, and lest ye think it was an unleavened Rockwell moment, I just want to let you know that Aeron managed to step in dog poo and smear it all over her legs...)

The girls and I had lunch on the front deck, then went inside to make Irish soda bread. Once the loaves were out of the oven, it was nap time. The girls settled down quickly and we all had a good rest.

When Kayla and Cameron came home, the first loaf of soda bread was 3/4 devoured. Toasted, with butter! Then Cam went off to golf practice with his grandfather, Kayla started homework and the wee lassies watched a Mister Rodgers DVD while I started dinner prep.

The girls, Cameron and Sasha, our neighbors' calico, and I were all sitting on the lawn when Daddy came home. Miles sat with us on the grass and tickled and roughhoused with the twins. The sight of Aeron, giggling and rolling in the grass, was wonderful. Then our neighbor walked by with her Jack Russell puppy and the girls were beside themselves with delight.

Terry stayed for dinner and we had spinach quiche, sweet potatoes fries and homegrown tomatoes on the front deck.

Now, it's quiet. Kayla's in her room reading "The Scarlet Letter", Cam and the girls are in bed and I can hear the crickets chirping thru the open windows.

It's all good.

In the middle of the night, episode 6


Both bedroom windows are wide open, allowing the delightful fresh breezes in. It feels wonderful to snuggle under the warm covers in the cool room.

I hear a noise. I turn my head, so my right clears the pillow. Was that a little girl?

More noises. But now I realize, they are coming from outside. What the heck?! It sounds like a bunch of kids staging a riot in the street.....

Then comes a howl.

Ah. It's the coyotes. From the sounds, it must be the whole pack. Yipping, howling, barking. They are really going at it.

Wonder why they carry on like that... I wonder as a drift back off to sleep to the singing.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Musings on the English language

When did the word fruit cease to be plural?

I was reading an review of "Eating the Sun" by Oliver Morton, in which he is quoted as saying, "...the source of energy that gives the stardust life is as close as the summer which ripened the fruits on our table." This British gentleman has a degree in history and philosophy of science. (I Googled him) He went to Cambridge, fer crying out loud! Mr. Morton isn't the only culprit, just the one fingered most recently.

Another pet peeve of mine was the incorrect usage of "negative reinforcement". What most people mean, when using that phrase, is "positive punishment". But a friend of mine in the field told me to give up; that genie was long gone out of the bottle.

Of course, that is how language evolves. For instance, the verb "to Google", that's a new one. Oh, and "to friend", i.e. "I friended Pastor Rob on Facebook yesterday."

But, really? Fruits?!

Saturday, September 12, 2009

In the middle of the night, episode 5


Oh, bloody hell!

It's Aeron, sobbing. I lay in bed, listening for a minute, hoping she'll shut up.

No soap.

"Aeron, honey, what's wrong?"

No answer, other than more sobbing. Ah, jeez, is she having night terrors...?

"Aeron? Do you want some water?"

"Yes!" Whew! (If she answers, it's not night terrors) So I give the kid a refill on her water and stagger back to bed.

"So, what was her damage?" asks the lump on the other side of the bed. "I dunno," I answer as I flop back into the pillows.

3 minutes later, more sobbing. Miles gets up this time. A little bit later, he comes back and flops.

A few quiet minutes pass. Then, more crying from Aeron. I go this time.

"Aeron! What!?" My whisper is becoming rather loud.

"I want Blue Bear!" What?! The god@%&# bear is right next to her bed! I shove the bear at her and leave the room. Miles doesn't even ask this time.

We tag-team the kid for another 20 minutes. Final score - Aeron: 6, parents: 0.

Or so we thought. The crying starts up again. I throw back the covers with anger and go stomping into the girls' room.

"Aeron....?" Aeron is quietly nursing on her sports bottle of water. The wailing is coming from the other bed. Claire is upset, and coughing. I go over to her, sooth her and tuck her covers around her, make sure she has Clairezie Bear and kissed her goodnight.

As I fell back into my bed for the final time, I checked the time. 12:53am.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Fatigue of the soul

The little girls had a 5-day weekend, due to Labor Day. 5 days where I had to find something to keep them busy and prevent them from tearing the place up. I rather think I failed at that, by the looks of the joint. 5 days of managing twin 4 year-olds, who don't want to get up, lay down, eat, stop eating, or go potty when instructed.

I'm tired of the drama, the wailing and sobbing when a blanket or a bear goes missing. The anguish when asked to put a shirt on. The yelling when the short-order cook (that's me) won't make what they want for lunch. The bitching when they've decided they want to go to the park, but it's too late, because it's now dark and they fooled around and wouldn't get their shoes on.

I know it's just the stage they are in. They want to control their world, and there are precious few opportunities of that kind for a 4 year-old.

But I'm awful tired.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

It's just so stupid

Generally, I avoid discussing politics. People get all up in arms and I'm not going to change their opinions, no matter what I say. Miles and I discuss the political news from time to time, but we often have to stop, as we get so very frustrated and feel so powerless.

However, this time, I really feel I need to express myself. I didn't pay the news coverage much attention at first. Seemed like just another partisan flap to me. But now, the kerfuffle over President Obama's speech to school children has reached ridiculous proportions.

The Superintendent of Templeton United School District, Dr. Deborah Bowers. has issued a directive to the Templeton schools stating teachers were free to use the President's speech in their classes if they chose, and any student could be excused if they, or their parents, objected. But, then, one of the members of the Templeton Unified School District Board of Trustees Dr. David La Rue, wrote a letter to the District Superintendent threatening punitive action against any teacher or administrator who showed the President's speech in class.

A Special School Board Meeting was held this morning to discuss the issue with the community and parents. Miles attended, as did approximately 70 other people. (The usual community attendance at these meetings is generally less than 1 or2) Out of that number, only 3 people were in favor of not allowing students to see the President's speech. And one of the 3 was a woman who started ranting about Nazis and Socialism. (Miles reports there were scoffs and catcalls from the audience during this woman's statement. Susan said she couldn't help laughing out loud...) Everyone else spoke in favor of the speech being shown to students. One woman, who clutched an American flag, even demanded the recall of Dr.La Rue.

When Dr. La Rue spoke, he insisted he was acting as a parent, still possessing his 1st Amendment rights of free speech, not as a board member. However, he had signed the letter to Dr. Bowers as a School Board Trustee. A fellow board member was disgusted enough to call Dr. La Rue a bully to his face. It seems quite clear Dr. La Rue was attempting to use his privileged position to impose his will upon the Templeton School District's policies.

In the end, the TUSD Board voted 3 to 2 to allow the speech to shown to students.

Why were folks so threatened by a speech from the democratically elected President of the United States? A speech in which Mr. Obama encourages kids to stay in school and work hard? A speech in which the President cites examples of kids who didn't let their disadvantages hold them back, who got a good education despite being ill, or poor or from a broken family?

Beats the heck outta me. Seems pretty stupid.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Outta the mouths of babes....

Claire: "Mom, is it a 'church night' "?

Me: "Yup. Tomorrow is Sunday and you're going to church."

Claire: "Yay! We get to do Jesus and go to Sunday school!"

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

In the middle of the night*, episode 4

*OK, not actually the middle of the night. More like 11:30pm. But still....

I'm reading in bed, (military science fiction) having a glass of chardonnay. Miles is doing same, but he's perusing a volume of beginning Spanish grammar. (spicy, huh?) The window is open above our bed and the crickets are chirping. A pleasant end of the day. A train went by, as it does every night, horn echoing mournfully over the sleepy town of Mayberry.

Then I heard a small, low sound of misery wafting through the dark. I sighed, tossed back my last slurp of wine, threw my book overboard and got outta the bed.

"Clairezie, honey, what's wrong?" I whispered.

"The train is too loud!" she whisper-sobbed. "I can't sleep! It's too loud for me!"

I sat down on the floor next to her bed. She was lying with her head at the foot and her Purple Blanket wrapped around her neck. Her pillow was on the floor. That kid is all over the place in her sleep.

"You know what, Claire?" I asked, running my fingers through her damp hair.

Sniffle. "What?"

It's amazing what she conveyed with that "What?" The message I actually received was, "What can you possibly say to me, Mother, that will make me feel even the slightest bit better about the *suffering* I'm currently enduring?!" Claire's got a real gift of communication.

Undaunted, I soldiered on.

"When I was just a little older than you, I moved to a place where there were 4 train tracks. We only have 1 here in Templeton. And the trains ran all night, and the horns were blowing all night. I learned to sleep through the sound. And you usually do, too. 'Cause the trains have been going by your *whole* life, and mostly, you don't hear them. But when I was little, and I did hear the trains? I liked the sound, 'cause it meant I was warm and safe and cozy in bed."

"Oh," she said with a sniffle, eyeing me like I was trying to put one over on her.

"So, close you eyes and get all cozy with Clairezie Bear and go to sleep, love."

She pondered that instruction for a moment. Then fatigue won out.

"Ok." Sniffle. "G'nite, Mom."

And she grabbed the covers, pulled 'em up to her chin and rolled over.

As I climbed back in bed with my book, "What was her damage?" asked Miles, not looking up from his book.

"Train's too loud."

"Phfft! She better get over that!"

"Yup. Pass the bottle."

Tuesday, September 1, 2009


It's 1:22am.

I could be in bed.

But I'm wide-awake.

I know I should try to sleep, but I'm cruising the Internet, looking for amusement. I know I'm gonna hate myself when Miles hauls me out of bed for our morning walk. But I'm not sleepy...


Monday, August 31, 2009

Fires, sickness and kitties with road rash

It's been a week here in Mayberry.

First, Mama went down with a virus. Low grade fever, headache and a cough that sounds like an out-of-sorts bloodhound. 3 days I was out of commision. Luckily, my treasure of a husband was able to competently step up and keep the troops fed, watered and entertained. Miles is my hero.

Next up on our list on concerns; the fires ravaging Southern California. The kids go to a Methodist summer camp near Palmdale. Kayla was in tears last night, fearing the worst. Today, I tracked the fires via satelite and texted her with updates. At last report, Camp Colby was spared major damage and the fires near it were contained. Can I get an "Amen!"?

Claire has been quite the clown these days. If she's not flinging herself fearlessly unto playground equipment*, she's on all fours, meowing and licking my ankle.

* while bandaging her forehead, from which she removing the top few layers of skin falling off the tire swing at school, I opined, "that looks like it hurt, Clairezie." "Yeah," she muttered. "I won't do that again..."

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Feeling immensely grateful

Miles and I took the little girls to the park today. They started playing on the tire swing with a little girl and what looked like her older brother. They were both sweet children, they were playing wonderfully with our kids but their was something odd about the girl. She was very thin, and her head looked too big for her body.

We fell into conversation with their dad. Turns out those two were twins. 7 years old, though the girl, Brandolyn, looked no older than Claire & Aeron. That child has had 19 brain surgeries and spent her first year of life in the hospital. Because she was wedged up under her mother's ribs, her head was bent at a severe angle, which damaged the drainage system for her brain. She has had her skull replaced, twice, with skulls donated from cadavers. Per her dad, insurance ran out after the first 2 million dollars was spent. Then her parents mortgaged their ranches and house, and paid the next 4.5 million in medical fees. She hasn't had any surgeries in the last 3 years, though she later will have some plastic surgery to conceal the lumps on her forehead from the bolts holding her facial bones to her new skull.

The kids played together for about 45 minutes. On our way home, Miles and I marveled. At the great attitude and love of the father. At the cheerfulness and love between those two kids. And at how very, very lucky we are.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

In the middle of the night, episode 3

The crying began at 12:58am.

It was Aeron this time. I went to the girls' room to find Aeron sitting up in bed, sniveling.

"What's wrong, Boo?" I asked. She didn't answer, just sniveled some more and coughed. (She's been coughing for a couple of weeks. She'll be seeing the doctor on Monday...)

Then Claire woke up and started sobbing. I went over to the other bed.

"Clairezie, what's wrong."

"Aeron's being too loud for me to sleep!" she wailed.


"Sweetie, Aeron can't help her cough. She's going back to sleep, so lay down and relax."

Claire started to gather up her blanket and bear and sobbed something.

"What sweetie?"

More sobbing, even louder.

"Honey, I can't understand you. Calm down and try again."

"I *gasp* wanna *gasp* wanna *gasp* be separated!"

(FYI - when the girls nap, we often put one on the couch and one in their room. They don't keep each other awake that way, and a lot more napping happens)

I give this idea a think. In my half-asleep brain, I thought it didn't set a very good precedent. So....

"Sweetie, you need to stay in bed and go back to sleep."

"I *gasp* wanna sleep *gasp* on the COUCH!"

By this time, naturally, Aeron had collapsed back unto her pillow and nothing more was heard from her for the rest of the night.

"Claire, calm down. Here's your purple blanket and Clairezie Bear. See? You're all tucked in and cozy. Nite-nite, love."

After 30 seconds of whimpering, Claire grabbed her quilt and rolled over.

Mama staggers back to bed. Game over.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

An action-packed week

Often, I have told people that I my life is very busy, but not with anything that makes a good story.

Not this week! In the past week, the following that happened:

  • we had house guests, which means we cleaned the house
  • aforementioned house guest ended up in the hospital
  • I ferried the son of the house guest back and forth to the hospital
  • house guest had surgery
  • our trip to AZ was delayed due to hospital crisis
  • 10 loads of laundry
  • we drove to Reseda and had dinner with the Dodges
  • we got up before the crack of dawn to drive to AZ
  • long, boring drive across the desert
  • fun dinner with the Clark-Callahan clan
  • night terrors from both twins
  • way too much squabbling about sleeping arrangements in our hotel room.
  • nice lunch to celebrate Papa's 105th birthday
  • twins both have a meltdown and we taken back to the hotel for a nap
  • evening get together with various kinfolk. Poolside!
  • more squabbling from kids
  • Jen went to the bar, found Trevor there. Miles joined them
  • Slept in the next morning. Whoops!
  • got kids fed, sent 'em to the pool
  • Miles and Jen packed up 6 people
  • Said goodbye to Nana & Papa
  • got a late start on the long, boring drive across the desert
  • after 12 hours in the van, Claire lost her patience. Sniveled for the last 45 minutes of the trip.
OK. I'm done whining now.

Monday, August 10, 2009

The changing nature of woman

We have an annoying problem with the plumbing in our house. If one is taking a shower and water is turned on in another part of the house, the shower goes ice cold. In an attempt to get a soothing hot shower, I would announce my intentions. It never worked. Invariably, someone would throw in a load of laundry or turn on the sprinklers. I would come furiously marching out of my room, dripping wet in a towel and start yelling for the offender to confess. It never did a bit a good. The strategy I developed was to shower after everyone was in bed, or when I was alone in the house.

Last night, after a long day at the beach, I hopped in the shower after the little girls were tucked in and asleep. Or so I thought. Aeron got up to go potty (yay!) and when she flushed (yay!) the water in my warm, relaxing shower ran frigid. And you know what?

It was amazingly refreshing!

This is possibly the only silver lining to perimenopause.

Friday, August 7, 2009

In the middle of the night, episode 2


Oh, hell, not again.

It's 3:33am.

"Mama!" Sobbing this time.

I stagger into the girls' room. Claire is face down in her bed, not making any sound.

"Clairezie. What's wrong?" I whisper, stroking her hair.

Claire flings herself over, arm across her eyes, and sobs something. I don't get it.

"What, sweetie?"

"I wanna watch a movie!"

Thursday, August 6, 2009

The joys of home ownership

Ah, the never-ending list of things that need doing when one owns a home.

As of August, the list looks like this:

  • Repair multiple leaks in the watering system/replace entire system
  • Replace the water softener
  • Plant the roses my m-i-l gave me before they die
  • Get a new screen for the master bedroom window, so I can open the window w/o every bug in the neighborhood flying in or the babies falling onto the driveway
  • Replace the faucet in the Fish Bathroom, so Mama doesn't have to turn on the water every time the little girls need to wash their hands after going potty
  • Build the other 5 garden boxes (OK, maybe just 1 or 2 more) before next spring
  • Replant all the window boxes, 'cause everything died in the last heat wave.
  • Clean the garage so Miles can find his tools so he can start fixing stuff
  • Spackle all the holes in the walls
  • Paint/install the other window shade for the girls' room
  • Purchase/install the drapes for Kayla's closet
I got more but I think I'll stop now. I'm getting depressed.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

In the middle of the night



Gah. It's 2:54 ante meridiem.


So, I get up and head to the little girls' room. Claire is standing by the door, eyes wide, clutching Clairezie Bear.

"What?" I whisper.

"There is a spider in my cup!" she whispers back. Apparently, this it the most awful thing that could happen in a suburban little girl's room. Ever.

I switch on the light above her bed, gingerly pick up the offending cup. No spider.

"Claire. I think you were dreaming. There is no spider here. Go back to bed"

"OK." She flops back in bed, grabs the covers and rolls into the Claire sleeping position. She closes her eyes. "G'nite, Mom."

Thursday, July 30, 2009

A night of Firsts

On Tuesday, Miles and I took Claire & Aeron to the Mid State Fair. We haven't gone the last few years. Didn't seem appropriate, somehow. The girls used to be freaked out by noise and strangers. But we decided this year we could take them, especially since they learned about the fair at school and have been asking, non-stop, when we could go.

We parked in downtown Paso and took the shuttle to the fairgrounds. The girls about vibrated out of their skins when they saw the yellow school bus we would ride. Claire was jumping up and down and shrieking, "A SCHOOL BUS! MAMA! LOOK! A SCHOOL BUS!" Another fella waiting for the shuttle was grinning behind his sunglasses. This was their first ride on a proper, yellow school bus

At the fair, we saw the animals. The sheep and goats were all having dinner, the pigs were all asleep, the bunnies all seemed bored to death. The horses withdrew from the doors of their stalls when they saw the girls approaching, I'm sad to report.

Then it was time for a treat. Ice cream in waffle cones. We found a (relatively) peaceful patch of grass to sit on and the girls snarfed down their ice cream in record time. Miles and I split a funnel cake. I must be getting old; all I could think of was what the grease and sugar were going to do to my cholesterol and hips....

Next, we took the little girls on the carousel. Aeron went fairly traditional, and chose a horsey. Claire got on a kitty. The ride really needed some maintenance. It was jerking up and down rather than gliding. But the girls loved it!

After the ride, it was time to go home. On the way out, Miles got them both a toy trumpet. Imagine, if you will, the sound of small elephants protesting as they are being stomped on by large elephants. That's the sound of those trumpets.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

The Dodge-Clark Summit

This weekend, Miles, the little girls and I drove down to Reseda to visit Melinda, Johan and Baby Lucie. Just a quick visit this time, but we already have plans for another visit on the books.

Some highlights include:

Claire and Aeron running naked in the back yard and jumping in Lucie's kiddie pool. Great fun for all; splashing and get hosed down by Melinda ....until Claire pooped on the lawn.

Oh, yes, she did!

Then she lost her naked privileges.

I seemed to have not entirely conquered that stomach bug. Sadly, it made it presence felt by Saturday afternoon. More Pepto shots for Jen. But, hey! They have cherry flavor Pepto Bismal now!

Claire and Aeron were all over Lucie. Aeron, in particular was so excited, the poor baby was being positively mauled. But Lucie is a happy, easy-going kid, so she took the exuberance in stride. The twins also had a swell time with Lucie's toys. Which we left all over the house. (sorry, Melinda!)

Johan BBQ'd organic bison burgers on Saturday night. Then he and Miles went to see the new Harry Potter flick. All the girls stayed home and watched "Snow White and the Seven Dwarves" and had real buttered popcorn.

Miles took the little girls to church to see Pastor Johan in action. Much ooh-ing and ah-ing for the local Methodists over the cute twins. I missed it - still feeling crummy, but someone had to pack, as we needed to get outta Dodge (ba-dum-bum!) shortly after church.

The drive home wasn't bad. Some traffic in LA, but that's to be expected. The girls are getting better about "quiet time". A good thing, too. The stream-of-consciousness babble from the girls was driving Daddy mad. So we bought donuts and milk and told 'em to put a sock in it. Then Mama took a nap and Daddy was able to plug into his IPod, drink coffee and listen to geek shit.

When we made the turn at Ventura and could see the ocean, Aeron cried, "Mama! Look! The ocean! The water is all sparkly! Just like a big swimming pool!"

Good times.

EDIT - I almost forgot the best part! On Saturday afternoon, the doorbell rang. Melinda went to answer, with the little girls following. It was a couple of Jehovah's Witnesses, two impeccably dressed gentlemen of color. "Actually, my husband is a minster," says Melinda. (Translation - "We got the Jesus thing covered, thanks.") Claire peeks out the door, and asks, loudly, "Is that Obama?"

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Potty Update

Aeron is doing really well on the potty training front. She spends her days wearing underpants and she perfectly willing to interrupt her play time to go potty. She's is very proud of herself; she "goes poop for Daddy!", bless her heart. She is still demanding the bribe; a.k.a. gummy penguins or jelly beans, but her main motivation seems to be pleasing the grown-ups.

This morning at breakfast, she piped, "Ooooh. I gotta go potty!" She leapt down from the breakfast bar and scampered up stairs to the Fish Bathroom. Next I hear a small voice warbling, "It's Potty gotta git down low-oh-oh-oh!"

Elmo is the bomb!

PS: Claire still holding out, but there are signs she's get interested. Keep your fingers crossed!

Saturday, July 18, 2009

The Clark Family Summer Stomach Bug Fest!

For the 3rd summer in a row, our family has been struck with a norovirus, a nasty, highly infectious bug that causes vomiting, diarrhea, intestinal cramps and abject misery.

The first year this happened, the whole family was visiting Trevor in Portland. First Kayla went down, then me. I was sick in bed for days and in someone else's bed, to boot. (Interestingly, I haven't been invited back to Trevor's since....) Pam & Terry seemed to get a slight case as well. Our trip home was full of Immodium AD, bananas and lots of potty stops.

Last year, it started with Aeron. She barfed in the wee hours (why do they always get sick in the middle of the night?!), then a couple more times during the next day, and then she was fine. Could have been just one of those kid things, right? Our friend Brett was visiting that weekend, and, unknowingly, we sent him home to die alone. Poor man "groveled like an animal for 3 days, wishing for the sweet release of death". All 6 of us got the bug that time. Kayla did her best to stave it off, but succumbed on the first night of summer camp. Spent the night in the infirmary after horking up her toenails, poor thing.

This year, I was Patient Zero. I woke up at 1 in the morning with a feeling of small, rabid animals attempting to chew their way out of my vitals. I'll spare my readers the more gruesome details, but let's just say .... it was a rough night. By 5am, Miles was feeling ill. Yesterday, he and I spent the whole day in bed, doing Pepto Bismol shots, and moaning. No other victims, as of yet. Kayla fled to a friend's home for the night. Miles and I have mostly recovered, but we're still weak as kittens. I've spend what upright time I have today disinfecting everything; the whole house smells like lemon-scented bleach.

What causes this outbreak of pestilence every summer? Maybe the norovirus has a season, like bubonic plague. Perhaps this is a message to me to be more picky about disinfecting doorknobs. Have I offended the Flu Gods? What ever it is, I'm sorry already!

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Birthday Week is officially OVER!


What a week. Lots of places to be. Lots of surreptitious wrapping of gifts. Lots of schlepping around. I feel I've driven all over the County. Oh, wait.... I did.

The schedule looked like this.

  • Monday: Jen's birthday. Lunch with Miles. Dinner, with cheesecake and presents with the family
  • Tuesday: Cameron's birthday. Miles & Cam go to Monterrey for the day. Dinner, cake and presents at Susan and Ron's
  • Wednesday: Claire & Aeron's birthday. Lunch at the country club. Dinner at Applebee's. Cake and presents at home.
  • Thursday: no activities (except catch-up on house chores not done the rest of the week)
  • Friday: Birthday party at school for Claire & Aeron. Mama brings 3 dozen cupcakes.
  • Saturday: Beach party at Cayucos for Cameron. Horde of kids. Much yelling at children, reminding them not to drown.

Stick a fork in me; I'm done!

PS: Miles just told me there will be a birthday party at church tomorrow for all the July kid birthdays. Ack.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

"It's Potty Time; you got to get down low...!"*

It is time.

Time to get very, very serious about potty training.

Claire and Aeron turned 4 yesterday. Aeron has done some good work in the potty department, but Claire has resisted mightily. "I'll go later, Mom."

Now. Every single health professional has told me not to worry, they'll go when they are ready. But still wearing diapers at 4 years old? Ok, I gave 'em time and now they need to be ready. I'm getting embarrassed.

This morning I talked to the twins and explained they were big girls now and needed to stop wearing diapers. The girls were in underpants all day, except for nap time. I'm using jellybeans from Easter as an incentive. Aeron has gone potty repeatedly, and Claire went once. Only one accident; Claire was able to stop peeing and get to the potty, albeit with damp drawers.

Stay tuned for more Potty News!

* if you recognize the quote, you obviously have spent too much time with Elmo

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Birthday Week continues: Claire & Aeron

I was awakened this morning by Aeron crawling into bed with me.

"Mama. Is Cameron's birthday over?" she whispered.


"Then is it MY birthday?!!?" a bit louder.



We had a busy day. First, our friend Belen came to visit and brought the girls each a plant. Next, we had lunch with Gra-Maw at the country club. Then the girls were given a couple of gifts at Gra-Maw & Papa's house. Golf clubs! Claire practiced her drive, while Aeron appeared to be concentrating on her chipping.

After a fun afternoon in San Luis, we all went to dinner at Applebee's. (Wednesday is Kid's Night; 99 cent meals) The girls got their faces painted, ate corn dogs and charmed the socks off the surrounding patrons. One older lady, after the girls introduced themselves and breathlessly informed her it was their 4th birthday, gave them each a couple of dollars. How's that for bragging rights?! My daughters are so adorable that perfect strangers give them money!

Then we all came home, had cake and opened presents. The girls got books and CDs of Disney music and clothes and games and paint sets and crayons and little stuffed otters from the Monterey Bay Aquarium.

Just as we were thinking it was time to shovel the girls into bed, Cousin Karen arrived to wish them a happy birthday. So now, Daddy is reading a couple of the new books and Claire and Aeron are struggling to keep their eyes open.

It was a good day.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Birthday Week continues - Cameron's birthday

Today is Cameron's 11th birthday.

First thing this morning, Miles and I gave Cam his gift - a cell phone. He was thrilled, of course.

Miles and Cameron took a trip to the Monterey Bay Aquarium. They had quality guy time and quality fish time.

Then we all trooped over to Susan and Ron's place for dinner. Grilled salmon, with roasted veggies and rice and salad, with an ice cream cake to finish. Yummy! The little girl and Kayla played in the hot tub before dinner and then the girls got to chase chickens. Good times....

Cam got some good swag; a fishing rod and tackle box, a science kit and a fabulous collage from Kayla. Cameron declared this to be the best birthday ever!

Jen's Tips & Pointers: Holding back the years

I'd had an idea for a while to write series of posts - "Jen's Tips & Pointers". I have some bits of hard-won wisdom I'd like to share. Feel free to completely ignore my advice; my kids do.

Today's subject - Holding back the years.

There are 5 basic ideas that can go quite a ways toward the goal of looking younger than one's calendar years. Mostly aimed at women. But the fellas can benefit, too.

1.) Sunscreen. Daily. Look younger and avoid skin cancer!

2.) Stand up straight. Makes the girls look perkier, if you.....

3.) Purchase the very best support brassiere you can afford. Especially if you've had kids. Forget surgery, invest in underpinnings!

4.) Use a whitening toothpaste. As we age, your teeth get dingier from all the coffee, tea, red wine, soda, etc. Whiter teeth also encourage one to smile more, thus looking less like an cranky old fart.

5.) Keep your hair shiny. As we age, we have less glossy locks. If you color, ask for a gloss with your touch-up. Use a leave-in conditioner/gloss finishing spray; look for silicone as an ingredient. Sleek and glossy = young and sexy! Also, Kayla suggests you don't cut your hair short. No mom hair!

Monday, July 6, 2009

Birthday Week begins!

My birthday started out quite nicely. My husband and little girls woke me up with kisses (twins) and coffee (Miles). Then they shoved the birthday hat on my head, then my loving (?!!?) husband took my picture. With bed head!

Then Miles brought me my favorite breakfast - leftover Chinese takeout! Man, a good cuppa java, with orange chicken & fried rice in bed is the way to start the day!

Then, I went to SLO to have lunch with Miles. Next was a quick trip to the bookstore. We ran into Gerke downtown; it was nice to see him.

After picking up the girls from preschool, the whole family headed to my in-law's house for lasagna and cheescake. Whoo, I'm now in a food coma......

Tomorrow - Cameron's 11th birthday!

Sunday, July 5, 2009

The birthday lookie-loo

Does anyone else do this? As your birthday approaches, you start to think about where you are in your life? Think about the goals not met, the projects undone? I find it's too easy for me to focus on the negative stuff, and I forget to count my blessings. So, I forthwith enumerate the good stuff.

1.) Health. Mine, my husband's, my kid's, my in-law's, the whole extended family and friends. I don't take it for granted and I'm very, very grateful we have it.

2.) Family. All the Clarks. The Kurths and Junes. My 4 children. My wonderful husband!

3.) Home. Not just the comfortable house we live in. The Central Coast, and it's oak-studded hills and great wine. California, with it's wacky, nutty-crunchy ideas and great farmer's markets. The United States of America, which doesn't limit my legal rights just because I'm a girl, or change governments by force.

4.) Opportunities. I can go back to school. I can plant all the roses and fruit trees Miles will let me. I've got the ability to help others less fortunate than my self. I can watch my beautiful twins grow and learn. I am able to stay home with my kids.

I've got it pretty good.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Small world; wouldn't want to paint it

California is a large state. 36 million plus folks here. 5th largest economy on the planet. 3rd largest state in the Union, with an area of 163,696 square miles. But it's crazy who we run into while out and about.

Miles and I took the little girls to Morro Bay today. Stopped and got coffee and yummies, then went to Tidewater Park. The little girls had a blast playing on the pirate ship, running about barefoot in the sand and watching the kayaks in the Bay.

I was sitting on a retaining wall, watching the girls, when I saw this oh-so-cute baby crawling in the sand. She had a huge grin, which showed all two of her teeth, and big blue eyes. Her mama saw me smiling at her child, and we struck up a conversation. The family was visiting her mom, she has a 4 year old boy (also on the pirate ship), she and her husband live in the Central Valley. She asked about the twins, and did we have any other kids? Miles had joined us by this point, so when I mentioned Kayla and Cameron, the woman stopped in her tracks, pointed at my husband and said, "I know you!"

"I've been trying to figure our where I know you from!" Miles says with a grin.

Turns out the nice lady with the beautiful baby is Micah, who was Kayla's favorite teacher at the Cal Poly Children's Center. She left Poly years ago, changed careers, married and now raises grass-fed beef in the Valley, while raising her two kids. We met her husband, Seth, told her all about Kayla and Cam and what they've been up to. It was a really nice encounter.

How come all the nice folks with young kids, that we connect with, always live hours away?!?

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Things are going well


Things are going pretty well for the Clark Clan.

Miles is doing great after his surgery. The worst pain is past. He will be able to drive by next week. He's moving easier. Getting a bit frustrated with cabin fever.

The girls got good and dirty at school today. Ate a good dinner and enjoyed their evening with Gra-Maw.

Had 8 people at my dinner table. Good times.

Cameron had a great time at marine biology camp. Is spending the night at Gra-Maw's. (Aeron seriously wailed when she heard about that!)

Johan joined us for dinner and stayed the night with us. We had a wonderful time chatting over single-malt Scotch. (Miss you, Melinda!)

Thing do look better in the morning.

Thank goodness!

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Daddy's not feeling well because why?

Ever had to explain to a couple of 3 year-olds that Daddy has had surgery (no, you certainly cannot see!) and he won't be giving any horsey rides for a long, long time?

I had several talks with the girls about Miles' surgery, both before and after. Explained how they would have to be very gentle with Daddy. But I can tell they don't quite get the full picture.

"Daddy? Are you feeling better?"

"Yeah, sweetie. I'm feeling better."

"All better, Daddy?"

"No, sweetie. I won't be all better for a long time."


The girls have been so sweet, running errands and taking care of Miles. Claire brings ice packs to her father and tucks her Purple Blanket gently over his knees. Aeron bring a nice selection of stuffed animals to sleep with Daddy, so he won't be lonely.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Good times....

Ah, the joys of summer!

The older two kids are on summer break, so they are either sleeping all day or off to some distant camp that they need to be transported to.

The little girls have started preschool two days a week. Now, those girls are all Clark. (for those readers not in the know; Clark = sleeps like a rock) Getting 'em up and fed and dressed and packed up by 9am is often a challenge.

Miles had surgery on Monday. Bilateral hernia repair. Ow-wah! He will be unable to push, pull or pick up anything over 20lbs for 8 weeks. It's been 4 days now, and he's already getting a bit twitchy.

Birthday Week is fast approaching. We have 4 family birthdays in 3 days, July 6th - July 8th, plus the Fourth of July.

When does school start?!

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Tired kids = Meltdown

It's been a busy, exciting weekend. Claire and Aeron having been missing naps and getting to bed late.

As I write, they are having a full-on "come apart". There is wailing, Wagnerian screaming, red-faced screeches, irrational demands, etc.





Then they got to the gasping stage.

"I want....I want...a...a....SNACK!"

"I'm firsty.....firsty for......MILK!!!"

Mama plans to administer warm milk, a couple of short books and some cuddles. Then it's lights out for little girls and cocktail hour for Mama and Daddy.

A Father's Day lesson

It's another beautiful day here on the Central Coast.

This morning I wandered out on the back deck to take a look at our burgeoning garden box. The tomatoes are growing like mad. They look like a creature about to assault the foundations of the house. In the corner, our single zucchini plant is doing what they always do - fruiting like mad. I apparently missed one when harvesting t'other day, 'cause now there is a squash the size of a baseball bat in the box.

Miles heard my snort and came out to see. Followed by Aeron.

I pointed.

"Yep. That's one big-ass zucchini".

"Daddy!? Can I see the big-ass zucchini?!? Wow! I never seen such a big-ass zucchini! What are we gonna do with the big-ass zucchini, Daddy?! Claire! Come see the big-ass zucchini!"

Here endth the lesson.

Saturday, June 20, 2009


It's crazy what parenthood will do to you.

When the twins were first born, and for the next year or so, I was horribly sleep-deprived. I'd fall asleep if I got even close to horizontal. I fell asleep feeding the babies. I couldn't remember anything, and trying to concentrate on driving was nigh on impossible. It was awful.

Now that the girls are sleeping like champs, I have insomnia. I just can't sleep. The doctor told me Benedryl was my friend; will put me out and isn't habit-forming. With all respect to my GP, Benedryl ain't takin' care of business anymore. I've got 3 in my system as I write, and it's after midnight.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Crisis du jour

Today, at (not) nap time, I had to go into the girls' room several times to tell 'em to settle down. They were yammering, and rattling their piggy banks, and squabbling, etc. My mood wasn't getting any sweeter, as they were completely ignoring my commands to pipe down, and I really wanted a nap.

Then I hear Claire crying in earnest, and Aeron hollering for Mama. I rush into the room, and Aeron says, "Claire swallowed a penny!" Claire is sitting on the side of the bed, teary, red-faced and looking worried. "I need some medicine, Mom!"

After asking Claire if she really had swallowed a penny ("un-huh!") I called the pediatricians office to speak with the nurse.

"Hi, it's Jennifer Clark. I need to talk to one of the nurses to see if I should be panicking."

"This is Aubry, how can I help you?"

"Claire just swallowed a penny. Should I be freaking out?"

"No. It'll come out. Keep an eye out for it."

"This happens a lot, huh?"

"Oh, yeah. But they usually swallow quarters."

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

my daughter Claire, destructive force of Nature

Parents will often bemoan the wreckage their little darlings can wreak. But for my money, Claire has raised destruction to an art form.

Last evening, Claire and I were giving Aeron rah-rahs as she sat on the potty in Mama's bathroom. Claire brought her a book to read, and was nattering on as she was jumping off the side of the tub. (Claire jumps, that's her thing) Suddenly, she lost her balance, arms flailing, as she tried not to face-plant on Mama's marble bathroom floor. She grabbed the towel rack, and managed not to fall, but instead, ripped the aforementioned rack right outta the wall. Pieces of the rack clanged to the floor and Claire was engulfed in bath towels. (surprisingly, Aeron still didn't poop)

Claire got down from the side of the tub, and handed me the towels. "I'm sorry, Mama! It was an accident! I'm so sorry!", blue eyes wide and distressed. I told her it was OK, it was an accident and Daddy would fix it. When he fixes it is an unknown at this time, but he will fix it. Eventually.

Monday, June 15, 2009

The first day of preschool

Today was Claire and Aeron's first day of preschool, and they couldn't have been more thrilled. They had their new lunch boxes and backpacks, just like big kids.

I'll like to say a very profound thank you to Miles. Mama was sick in bed, and Daddy got the little girls ready for school. Packed lunches, fed and dressed munchkins and took pictures. Yay, Daddy!

Thursday, June 11, 2009

The company picnic

Today we tagged an important base on the Suburban checklist - the company picnic. For those unfamiliar, the company picnic (and it's cousin, the company holiday party) is a function one attends to put in "face time". Face time shows the boss you're a team player and gives you the chance to spend time with one's coworkers outside the office setting.

Actually, though I mock, I always kind of enjoy the office parties. When you get out as little as I do, any chance to talk to other grownups is a pleasure. Plus, they feed you.

The picnic was in a small park near Cal Poly. There is a newly-renovated playground, with some fabulous play structures. The chow was good, especially the vast quantities of strawberries and cake! The little girls had a great time running amok and wolfing down fruit and cookies. We sat with another couple who have 3 year old fraternal twins, swapping stories and commiserating over the challenges. Potty training was a hot topic.

When it came time to leave, the girls were escorted over to the Dean to say thank you. They did a great job, pronounced the Dean's name correctly and said a gracious thank-you. He seemed tickled.

Another plus that comes with this sort of outing is the girls get lots of exercise. They got a bath and went to bed (almost) without fuss.

Hooray for the company picnic!

Tuesday, June 9, 2009


There comes a point in a parent's day when she or he no longer has the will to fight the good fight. Beaten down by the energy and obstinacy of their offspring, the parent retreats to minimum safe distance and pours a cocktail.

Miles and I refer to this as achieving "discouraged".

I got there by 11am today. But by shear dint of will, I didn't pour that first glass of wine 'till 5pm.

Aeron, in particular, was exceptionally difficult today. Ignoring my instructions, sobbing over the least little thing, tearing up her room at "nap time". (no napping actually happened) Hand sanitizer was smeared in the carpet, detangler sprayed on the sheets, books pulled off shelves and strewn on the floor. There were loud cries of, "She hit me!" and "Mom! Boo Boo pushed me!" Aeron even attempting to violently elbow check me in the kitchen as I was getting dinner. Claire was marginally more cooperative and less emotional, thank goodness.

Part of the problem is the little darlings have so much energy. I find it difficult to find ways to wear 'em out by myself. It is clear, however, I need to make more of an effort. If only for self-preservation.... The other part is the developmental stage they are in. The twins will by 4 in July, and they are testing boundaries and experimenting with independence, yadda, yadda....

The girls start preschool next week. The school sits on a acre, with chickens and horses and an aviary with nesting finches. Lots of climbing equipment, time to play in the mud and plenty of space to run amok. I'm hoping they come home filthy and exhausted.

Only 6 more days.....

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Date Night?

Miles and I went to see "Star Trek" tonight. Kayla watched the wee lassies, with her buddy Kenzie. (she asked if she was getting paid. I reminded her about the $42 haircut I'd paid for this afternoon)

I have to say, as a fan of the original Trek.... I enjoyed this film. Spock is a central figure, and the actor paying him did a great job making the well-know character interesting. Especially the part where Uhura was his girlfriend! That was, pardon the pun, a fascinating bit of character development. It's a new reality, so all history is able to be re-told. Very cool!

I called it a date night. There were 2 men, 2 boys and me. But it was still a nice chance to get out.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

I stand corrected

Perhaps I spoke too soon?

Seems some people do wish to hear about Miles and I living the Suburban Dream. Hmm. Who'da thunk?

That said, I hearby change the name of this blog to "Miles & Jen's Fabulous Suburban Adventure".

Hope you have some laughs.

Friday, May 29, 2009

My fans have (not) spoken

Well, other than Melinda, no one seems to be interested in Miles & Jen's Fabulous Suburban Life.

Can it be so? Are we all so busy we can't find time to read (or even care) about another mommy blog?

Ah, well. My doctor says I need to reduce the stress in my life, anyway. One less thing on my to-do list. Also, I'm thinking of selling the kids. Anyone need some slave labor? We're having a special; buy one get one free!

Monday, May 25, 2009

Now, what?

OK, folks. Here's my question.

Shall I continue?

There haven't been a lot of comments posted. So I'm not really sure anyone is reading these posts.

If I were to continue, I would be writing about life with the Clark Tribe. Living the Suburban Dream. Talking about my kids, my garden and my house.

What would I even title such a thing?

Please let me know your thoughts.


Home again

We're home.

Miles and I got up at 5am in Stuttgart, left for Frankfurt by 6am. We boarded our first plane at 11:10am; Frankfurt to Philadelphia. An eight hour flight. Then in Philly, we boarded a 3:25pm flight to Phoenix. Once in Phoenix, we hopped a 8pm plane for SLO.

Aside - I lived in Phoenix for 17 years. Sky Harbor is a big airport in a big city. I said to Miles, "I keep thinking that one day, I'm gonna see someone I know in this airport." As we sat at the bar, having a much-needed cocktail, a woman approached us, as if to ask for directions or something. It was Amy, Miles' colleague from the College of Engineering. She was on the same flight home.

The whole family was there to welcome us. The little girls were hopping up and down madly, shrieking, "Mama! Daddy!" I was tackled by Claire as soon as I cleared the entry. Which was great!

We got our bags and went home to my parents-in-law's house. We were much too tired to even think about driving home, so we had some dessert, told a few stories of our adventures, and handed out souvenirs to the gang. Then we all fell into bed.

This morning, we all got up, had waffles and told more stories of our adventures. Everyone asks, "What was your favorite part?" That's a hard question to answer.

I think my favorite parts were some of the quiet times. Wandering in the poteger at Versailles. Sitting in cafes, people watching. Chatting with folks. Watching Anton scoot backwards on the floor.

We didn't see everything we would have liked to, of course. Our explorations of Paris covered only a small slice of what the City of Lights has to offer. But, there will be other trips. Miles promised.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Reality vs. Expectations

Ok, so I had all these ideas about our visit to France. But I hadn't given a great deal of thought to what it would be like to visit Germany. I was very much looking forward to seeing Anton (oh, and his parents....), but little in the way of expectations.

It has been wonderful to play with the baby and spend time with Blumi and Fatma. The county is beautiful and the people are warm and gracious. But the thing I did not expect was to be mistaken for a German.

Almost everywhere I went, people started speaking to me in German; shop keepers, waitresses, little girls in the WC, even. As I speak perhaps 10 words in German, and have only the vaguest ability to read the language, I did quite a bit of smiling & nodding. (Greg said he though there were two things going on. First, I look German. Second, not a lot of tourists visit the areas we've been to.)

There was a strange feeling of familiarity in Germany. Folks look very much like Junes and Kurths. Lots of meat and potatoes are consumed. People like to hang out, drink beer and eat.

Just like home.


I apologize to my legion of fans for going dark the last few days. Miles and I have been spending all our time being social and playing with Anton.

We arrived Wednesday evening in Stuttgart, having taken the train from Paris. Blumi & Fatma fed us a wonderful BBQ dinner. Poor Miles had caught a cold in Paris, so he went to bed early.

Thursday, we went walkbout in Stuttgart. We utilized the excellent public transit system to visit various areas; parks, tea houses and beer gardens. The weather was lovely, everyone was very friendly, and the scenery gloriously green.

On Friday, we met up with Greg Larsen and his wife, Marie-Jose. Greg is a friend of Miles' from elementary school. We visited Esslingen, a cute, old village, complete with a castle on the hill. We sat at a cafe and ate cake, weathered a brief, but intense, rain storm, and did a bit of shopping. Then we climbed the hill to the "Fat Tower", which now houses a restaurant. (Oy! What a climb!) After wandering around the top of the hill and admiring the view, we went back down into town. We had a private tour of 15th century wine cellers and a late lunch. Then Fatma, Anton and I went home and the rest of the gang went shopping for dinner supplies. Luckily, we are in Germany during asparagus season. So our dinner was potatoes, and asparagus, napped in the most delicious hollandaise sauce (Thanks, Marie-Jose!) along with three varieties of ham.

Every morning, the Blums set out a lovely breakfast for us. We are getting so spoiled; once home, making our own coffee and getting our own meals will seem very hard.....

Monday, May 18, 2009

Things I've learned in Paris

Cobble stones are a bitch to walk on.

The cure for tourist fatigue is a chilled glass of dry rose and a plate of pasta. Works every time!

When in doubt, stop at the cafe for a drink.

Never go anywhere without an umbrella in May. (right after I wrote the preceding sentence, it started raining like mad...)

Friday, May 15, 2009


Friday and Saturday, we did Versailles.

The first day, we took the train out. Not as easy as it should have been. However, we arrived and immediately sought a cup of coffee.

(Aside - the smelliest person, bar NONE, we have encountered in France, was a 30-something dude, wearing a "World of Warcraft" shirt. Boy stank to high heaven, and paid for his coffee with a traveler's check, fer cryin 'out loud!)

Versailles' gardens defy imagination. As you stand on the terrace, looking out toward the Grand Canal, the gardens stretch to the horizon!

While waiting for Miles, I watched a team of gardeners, with a truckload of electric equipment, trimming the hedges. One guy made a pass with the hedge trimmer, a second guy tidied up with hand clippers, and another fella was raking up the clippings. That was just one small section of short hedge in the North Parterre. I can't imagine how they trim the hedges that are 30 feet high. Or the trees, which are even taller and squared off like a hedge.

Next we took the tram out to the Petit Trianon, where the queen could get away when life at the Chateau got to be too much. A cute little shack - with mechanic mirrors that slide up to cover the windows. And a warming room; the kitchen was at le Grand Trianon. Food was brought over and re-warmed before being send to the dining room. At least the house was on a human scale. It was grand, but intimate.

Next up was the Chateau. We saw the State Apartments of the King and Queen. These rooms were meant to impress the viewer with the wealth and might of France. (Good job, Louis!) The Hall of Mirrors was most impressive. Apparently, no one had ever seen anything like this when it was first constructed. Each of the huge mirrors is facing a huge window. And the chandeliers - it seems like a jungle canopy of crystal and light. I tried to imagine I was at a soirée back in the day, complete with wide rustling skirts, a powdered wig and a glass of champagne.

We were tired after all that grandeur, so we hopped the train back to Paris. We went to our cafe, had some wine and cheese, then called it a night.

Saturday, we again went out to Versailles, this time to see Le Potager du Roi - the King's Vegetable Garden. I have read quite a bit about this garden and was very excited to see it. (Does that make me weird? No? Good...) This walled garden encloses 22 acres. Some gardens are sunken to create a warmer micro-climate. The genius behind this marvel of place was Jean-Baptiste La Quintinie. He started out as a lawyer, then got interested in gardening by reading classical Roman horticultural treatises. Next thing you know, Louis XIV appoints him "director of all Royal fruit and vegetable gardens" in 1670.

It took five years (1678 to 1683) for La Quintinie to take a swamp and make it into an immensely productive and innovative potager. The king had a lech for figs; La Quintinie was able to supply Louis XIV with figs six months of the year. His Majesty could have strawberries in January, peas in April, and asparagus starting in December. By all accounts, Louis XIV thought very highly of his gardener, ennobling him in 1687. La Quintinie died in 1688, and the king told his widow they had suffered a loss that could not be repaired.

Just to give you an idea of the size of the place, there are over 5000 fruit trees, mostly apples and pears. Most are espaliered along the walls or on trellises. This garden contains 60 different species of fruit and veggies, with more than 300 varieties of vegetables, fruit, herbs and edible flowers. There are also flowers, for beauty and to keep the pollinators happy; roses, peonies, columbine and iris. Many of these are used as borders. We saw pots hanging from the trellised trees. They seemed to be filled with straw. We asked to lady at the boutique. "They are for the ladybugs. We put eggs in the pots and the bugs, they work for us for free."

It was too early in the season to see the true bounty of the place. It looked about a month behind where we are at home. I'd love to see it in, say, September. But you could see the promise; the fruit trees with loaded with fruit (I wonder if they thin them out?) There is a national school of horticulture attached to the potager. Some of the plots are reserved for the students.

We had a glass of wine in town, then took the train back to Paris. Again, we had dinner at la Comete. The waiter now greets us with smiles and handshakes, gives us French menus, and fusses over us. My wine glass never gets more than half empty before he bustles over to fill it. We even got chocolates as we paid the bill. Miles had the daily special, sausage, with an onion gravy and a potato puree that was off the charts delicious. Man, that stuff was like crack! I dipped my frites in it.

We took a stroll down by the Seine after dinner. All the bridges are beautifully lit. Then it was time to take Jen home and put her to bed. I'm getting righteous sleep; on average, 10 to 11 hours a night. Miles, on the other hand, is having troubles with insomnia. I keep finding him on the couch in the middle of the night.

Don't forget that pictures are being posted at!

Thursday, May 14, 2009


Our day can be divided into two parts. First: getting to, and seeing, le Louvre. Next was after the Louvre.

Getting there...

For various reasons, it took Miles and I about 3 hours to get to the museum. We were pooped when we arrived - not a good omen. We refreshed ourselves, then tackled our short agenda; a couple of paintings, a few statues, and object or two d'art. A big thrill for me was a rock crystal vase given by Eleanor of Aquitaine to Louis VII of France as a wedding gift on July 25, 1137.

This is the only artifact associated with Eleanor that is still extant. That's 872 years ago, folks. And the vase was given to Eleanor's grandfather, William the Troubadour, by an Arab ally. The best guess is the vase was made sometime in the 7th century, in Iran.

After over three hours of marveling over a mere fraction of the works at the Louvre, Miles and I were done. Footsore and brain dead, we left the museum, searching for sustenance. We walked a few blocks to a cafe (the ones close to any major attraction are over-priced) and plunked our exhausted selves at a table. A carafe of rose and some comfort food went quite a long way in restoring our spirits.

Refeshed, we took a wandering path back to our apartment. We strolled through les Halles and stopped to check out L'Eglise de St Merry. A beautiful, gothic church, complete with vaulted ceilings and flying buttresses. I've developed the habit of lighting a candle at each church we visit. Seems right, somehow.

We decided to make it an early night.

Tomorrow - Versailles!