Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Troubles with the Wee Folk

In the last week, I've had three major and one minor appliance either die or give me trouble.

First, and most aggravating, my furnace died on Christmas Day. My only-three-year-old, new furnace. The repair guy was stunned to discover a dead motor. "I've never had to replace one. Ever!" Of course, he promptly ordered one, but due to Christmas backlog in the shipping biz, it won't arrive until Thursday. Possibly Friday.

One week, in the winter, with no heat. I am not happy. OK, I know it's a California winter. Not that big a deal, right? But it gets damn cold in the house. 52 degrees ain't my favorite temperature for a living room!

Next up, my dryer wouldn't dry. I had a just few pieces of warm clothing in there, I was still in my flannel jammies and long johns keeping warm while waiting, and after an hour and a half, they clothes were still wet. The girls were driving me up the wall and the dryer thing sent me over the edge. Miles heard the shrieks of frustration from down in the Bat Cave. He came up, laid on hands and, presto! The damn dryer began to work. I'm certain he think this was an ID10T problem.

Next day, I'm pulling the rest of that load of laundry out of the washer and loading it into my resurrected dryer. There was a long tablecloth I was pulling out, when the dripping wet end flew out and smacked me in the face with icy water.  All the clothes in the washer were dripping wet. I abandoned the laundry and went to hide under the covers to have a good cry. Incidentally, Miles has used the thing since and it works just fine for him.

Which brings us to today. Today, my Kitchen Aid mixer started having issues. First, it was making a rattling noise. I discovered a loose screw and tightened it up. After which, the lowest speed wouldn't work and the next lowest setting worked at the highest speed. After getting a face full of flour, I turned the blasted thing off and stomped down to the Bat Cave and flung myself into Miles' comfy chair with a snarl.


"My Kitchen Aid is broken!"


Clearly, I have offended some celestial being or, maybe, the Little People. I'm gonna leave bread and milk outside the the back door to try to appease them. Also, I plan to throw salt over my left shoulder. Then I will find my holey stone and keep it in my pocket to keep the bad fairies away.

Ironic note: The furnace was repaired and now we're too warm.

Cruelly ironic note: Upon returning from LA after New Year's, the furnace is out again.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

You be the judge

So, we're having our Annual Tree Trimming Party this weekend. I've been working out what I'm gonna feed all my eager decorating elves and I have a question to put to you, my devoted readers.

I'm seriously considering making a molded jello salad, a recipe of my Gram's she used to make for parties.

Is that lame, or coolly retro?

Addendum: I made "Zippy Ruby Salad". Grandma Nettie's recipe.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

I just couldn't help myself

At choir practice. A rather loud soprano mistake.

Me: "That was me. Dotted half-note, check."

A tenor: "Admit nothing! Deny everything!"

Me: "But I'm not a Republican."

Entire choir: "Oooooooh...."

Friday, December 10, 2010

I may have done something slightly crazy, part 2

Where was I?

Ah, yes. The lady I don't know, with the starving 10 year-old daughter, whom I invited to my house.

Elizabeth wrote about our email exchanges regarding my offer here.  We also made plans to meet for lunch somewhere in LA, when Miles and I are visiting the Dodges' at New Year's. You know, so I can meet her and make certain she's not an ax-murderer who will attempt to slaughter my children, steal my good silver or BBQ my cat.

So, she's coming sometime in February for Jen's Cooking Survival School - the Emergency Version. I have grand plans running around my head which involve a cookbook, with LOTS of room for notes and a really obnoxious apron. (I'll show her to threaten me with ugly garden statuary!) Now I just have to figure out exactly what I should teach her.

Here's my criteria:

  • Recipes should be basic and not involve complicated techniques, like flambe or juggling.
  • Recipes should not "re-invent the wheel". She can buy a salad at Trader Joe's.
  • Results should be able to be used in more than one dish.
  • Result should be reasonably nutritional.

Any suggestions, people?

I may have done something slightly crazy

I've become online buddies with  Elizabeth the Amazing.  Her hysterical blog chronicles her cessation of recreational shopping for one year and working her way through a list of challenges she calls her Monday Dares. Last weeks dare was to learn to cook!  And she has a 10 year old daughter! Well, that's not gonna fly! God knows what that poor child has been living on, but having read Elizabeth's post, I realized  Something Must Be Done. I immediately commented to the effect she should get her butt to my house for some cooking lessons. Then I sent her an easy recipe and again told her to get her butt to my house for some cooking lessons. I took a while, but I finally convinced the dear thing I was serious.

Why, I hear you ask, would I invite a complete stranger to my home? Because she can't cook!!! I'm not certain if I can explain how this notion horrifies me, but I'm gonna take a shot.

In high school, I'd come home, have a swim, not do my homework, and lie around reading sci-fi novels. My mom would arrive home after work, tired and we'd try to throw something together for dinner. My mother, bless her, was an awful cook; I remember eating a box of Stove Top Stuffing for dinner one night. The result: I was constantly hungry and terribly skinny.

The second part is my time in San Francisco. My roomie was one of the only people I know who grew up eating, and continued to eat, a decent diet. Fruit, veggies, salad, fish, whole grains; the whole shebang. The only fish I ever had as a kid came in a can labeled "Starkist" and I had never eaten a fresh green bean in my life. Cooking with Clay was a revelation. The result: I became a darn good cook.

The final piece of the puzzle is having kids. When I joined the Clark Clan, Miles, Kayla and Cam were eating a lot of boxed mac-n-cheese and chicken nuggets. Well, that came to screeching halt. I became a stay-at-home-mom and a cookin' fool. I baked bread, made dinner every night,  planted a kitchen garden, and attempted to instill some table manners. The result: I became a Food Nazi. Nutrition became  my raison d'être be continued.....

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

I cain't make this stuff up


I was spending some quality time with my sweetie, in the Boudoir, with the door closed. I decided I should check on the Wee Lassies. I open our door and hear Aeron crying.

"Aeron. What's wrong?" No answer. I sit the child up in her bed. She just snivels.

"Boo. What's wrong?!" I ask. A couple times.

Finally I get answer.

"I.....I....want an umbrella!"

In the middle of the night; episode 14.

She did it again.

My precious Boo has had a little cold. Not very ill, just off her feed and snorty, with a headache. Too tired last night to have a bath after dinner. So, I stuffed the kid into her jammies and tucked her in. She went instantly to sleep.

Well, that was easy, I thought. (when will I learn?!)


The first thing I realized was that I was cold. Next, I hear the soft yet piercing sound of Aeron whining in her sleep.

For the love of pete, kid, just stop. Please, please.....

More whining. Clearly, Aeron was not on board with my secret agenda to get some sleep.

No! I'm NOT getting up, dammit! 

The kid ramped up her complaint to keening.

I put a pillow over my head. And I noticed my husband's breathing no longer was the slow, even sound of deep sleep.

Through the down, I could hear the sound of Aeron sobbing. Snarling under my breath, I flung back the covers and stomped off to the girls' room.

Aeron was lying on her side in the fetal position, covers on the floor, giraffe pillow over her head. As I came toward her bed, she squealed and thrashed her legs.

"Aeron!" through my teeth. "Pull up the covers!"

I think I startled her. She jerked awake.

"Aeron! Just pull up the covers!"

I must have put a bit too much intensity in the order. She immediately began to sob in earnest.

Ah, jesus...what have I done?!?

"I'm so sorry, Mama!"

Bloody hell. "It's ok, Boo. Please stop crying. Please. Please. Aeron. I'm begging you."

Well, after a trip to the potty and some snuggles, the child stopped the awful noise. I went back to bed.

Miles said, "So what was that all about?"

"She kicked off the covers." He didn't ask which one.

The Real words to Christmas carols

"Decks the hall in bells and colly, Fa la la la la, la lal a la.

"Now we know our daily bre-ead, la la la, la la la, la, la, la.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Oh, fer cryin' out loud!

Claire came in to snuggle this morning. As usual, she had her Purple Fuzzy Blanket and Clairezie Bear, and she climbed in on Daddy's side of the bed. (She's a superior snuggler; it's very sweet.)  For just a precious moment, all was peaceful.

Then came the wailing, faint at first. Then the wailing grew louder as the child making the noise staggered towards my room. As Aeron rounded the corner, she took her wailing up a notch (Which felt like a pin in the backside, I must say.) She climbed in on my other side and tried to tell me something through her tears. I shushed the child and snuggled her, and asked her to calm down and tell me what was wrong.

"Claire said it's a sunny day and I don't want her to!"

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Thanks a lot, Mr. Pollan!

For the past couple of weeks, "The Omnivore's Dilemma" has been on my coffee table. When I have a minute, I'll sit down with cup of coffee and read a few pages. Usually, I read books in a couple of hours, but not this one. There's a lot to take in.

For one thing, if the film "Supersize Me" didn't get you, or "Food, Inc." didn't put you off your Quarterpounder habit, "The Omnivore's Dilemma" with finish off any urge to ever eat at the Golden Arches again.  Not even for the french fries, which is a powerful statement, right there.

Pollan's descriptions of the industrial beef process is gut-wrenching. Then factor in the cruelty, and the health hazards, and I really can't see EVER buying anything but grass-fed, free-range beef again.

And I'm only on the 6th chapter.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

One of the reasons I married him

"Hmm. I dreamed about Mario Bateli and Henry Kissinger."

"New cooking show?"

Friday, October 15, 2010

The "Yummy Mummies" or How I Have Become What I Despised

I can't really decide if I'm a hypocrite or merely have more insight into the lives of housewives in California.

When first I moved to the Central Coast, I couldn't believe how pampered the moms on the school run looked. Manicured nails, salon tans, artfully streaked and cut hair, expensive exercise togs, diamonds the size of gobstoppers, fer cryin' out loud!. I just had two step-kids at the time, and I was lucky to get my hair combed before I walked 'em to school.

Today, heading back to my minivan after walking the wee lassies to class, I looked down and admired my pretty, red-painted toes. Then I thought about my hair appointment next week. I pondered the linen sun dress I was wearing and how the color suited my tan. Suddenly, and with horror,  I realized I had become one of the high-maintainance stay-at-home-moms I used to look down my nose at.

Maybe this was my working-class snobbery coming back to bite me on the butt. I mean, I'm not that high-maintainance. My one indulgence is a pedicure; after chasing rambunctious twins, washing endless dirty dishes and folding countless mounds of clean laundry, the foot rub is very soothing. The cute little black sandals I picked up for less than 4 bucks at Target. The dress I've had for years and it's comfy. I've been getting inexpensive haircuts and haven't had a color weave in over a year.

So, am I taking care of myself or am I an over-indulged wife? Taking time to take care of myself is important, right? Or is this a justification? Is money spent on pedicures, flattering clothing and hair color a waste?


Trip to the Pumpkin Patch

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

No, *that* was the worst night's sleep in recorded parental history..... a.k.a. Night Terrors!

Clearly, I have offended the gods. Or perhaps I unknowingly ran over a leprechaun. The pixies must be angry. Something.

Yesterday, the girls had a very busy and very exciting day. First, they went to church with Daddy; that's fun. Then we went down to San Luis to go swimming; always a thrill. Then we had the neighbors over for dinner. That was what did the damage.

The neighbor kids and Claire & Aeron were rampaging full-tilt boogie at 9pm, completely trashing the family room. They were giggling like maniacs, spilling out the toy buckets, jumping on each other; absolute pandemonium.

We got the girls down, and retired to the Boudoir for some quality sweetie time. Enjoyed a glass of wine, read our books, listened to soothing music. Until about 10:30pm, anyway.

Aeron starts crying. Then the crying gets louder and more anguished. I went into her room and she was uncovered and thrashing about. I hug the child, talk to her softly, rub her back and she subsides. I lay her down, cover her up and leave.

Miles and I tag-teamed the kid for the next five hours. She finally stopped about 3am.

Good thing she's cute.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

In the middle of the night; episode 13

Aeron's back to her evil ways. Three times she cried in her sleep last night.

The first time was about 10pm. She whimpered for a few minutes, then quieted down.

Next time was about midnight. She started to mewl , worked up to sniveling, and proceeded right on to a full-throated wail. By the time I decided she wasn't gonna pipe down and got out of bed, she was in the potty. In the dark. Crying.

"Boo. Whatsa matter?" No answer, just more crying.

"Aeron. Why are you crying?" She just looked at me, hopped off the pot and pulled up her drawers.

I followed the staggering child back to her room, whereupon, she flung herself into bed. I tucked her in, gave her Blue Bear, and pulled up the covers.

"Aeron! Stop crying!" I fiercely whispered, glancing over to Claire's bed. The other one was half-off her bed, covers on the floor, pillow over her head. Aeron finally focused her eyes, and whispered, "OK, Mama."

Round three came at 2:34am. Sobbing from Aeron echoed throughout the house. I sighed and climbed out of bed, trying to figure out whom I possibly could have offended: the gypsies? a leprechaun, some bruja, perhaps?

Aeron was in bed this time, covers all over, Blue Bear on the floor. I asked her what was wrong.

"Wwwwwhaaaaaa (gasp!) ahhhhh-huhnnnna (gasp!) ammmmnnna (snort!) PORK! And that's (gasp!) NOT NICE!"

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

What a difference a generation makes

Do all y'all remember going to elementary school? Some grownup would boot you out the door at the appropriate time, and you'd walk to the bus stop or directly to school, carrying your lunch and books and, at least in Michigan in the winter, wearing your snow suit. You'd get to school, struggle out of your snow gear (ah, the complete humiliation of getting stuck in one's snow pants....I don't think I ever recovered) hang up your coat, put your lunch in your cubby and come to order before the bell rang.

Well, kiddies, I'm here to tell you it doesn't work like that anymore.

Firstly, one must drive one's offspring to school. Winter or summer, fair weather or foul. Then, having battled through the shoals of minivans, (the only time there are traffic jams here in Mayberry) you find a place to park. Then you unload all the kids, put the baby in the stroller, grab the toddler before she dives in front of cars and everyone heads to class. There is practically one adult on campus for each and every child, plus teachers, the principle and the volunteers on playground supervision and crossing guard duty. The place is positively swarming with grownups.

Claire and Aeron's class enters through the "back yard" door of their room, because the morning class is exiting through the front door. Mrs. Davis is outside, collecting papers and putting name tag stickers on all the kids. Backpacks, jackets and lunch bags are left outside on hooks on the wall. Once the bell rings and I give hugs and kisses to my girls, I join the stream of parents, grandparents and daycare providers and we all head to the main gate and back to our minivans. There is lots of chatting and admiring of babies and moms chasing down the runaway toddlers. Kids are strapped back into car seats to sound of "Sierra! Stop that!" and "Colin, don't hit Logan!" and everyone drives off. We in minivans had to be careful pulling out so as not to hit the few intrepid souls who walk, pushing strollers to and from the school.

This scene is played out three times a day! Don't these people have jobs?

Three reasons for all this parental involvement, as far as I can tell. First, there is no bus service in Mayberry. We can't afford it and still have things like music and libraries. Second, people are afraid to let their kids out of their sight. The media would have you believe there are child molesters behind every bush, such is our culture of fear. And, lastly, there is the meteoric rise of that dreaded creature, the "helicopter parent". A.k.a. the "lawnmower parent". A pejorative expression for the sort of mom or dad who "hovers" over their kids, micromanaging them or "smooths the way" for their darling poopsie.

I used to feel guilty about making Kayla and Cameron walk to school, but not anymore. Kayla, in particular hates it, probably as she feels it makes her look bad socially. So then I start talking about studies which found that kids who walk to school do better on tests and come closer to meeting their exercise goals. (which gets me eye-rolling every time) Plus, I just hate the idea that I must be a chauffeur to the kids. They have feet. They have expensive bicycles. They should use them.

Of course, I can't just pitch five-year-old little girls out the door. It's a twenty minute walk, at best speed. So I drive 'em to the park, and then walk them the few blocks in. One day last week, I dropped Claire & Aeron at the gate and they walked themselves to class. They were so very proud of themselves! Today, I walked them to class, but they didn't want me to. They wanted to be big girls and do it all by themselves!

I firmly believe the best thing I can teach all my kids is to not need me.

Thursday, August 26, 2010


Ah.... the day my girls finally go to public school! Three hours of someone else keeping them busy that I don't have to pay for!

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Sunday morning

OK, so, here's the drill on Sunday mornings. Miles takes all the kids to church and Mama stays home and enjoys her solitude.

Sounds simple, right? One would think I could sleep in while my husband marshals the troops and takes 'em all off to get right with Jesus. But, naturally, it doesn't work that way.

Miles woke me up and at first, it looked like it was going to be a smooth morning. Miles was dressed in a pressed shirt and the house was quiet. We coordinated the afternoon plans and he went away. Mitzi got up from her nest at the foot of the bed and came to lay on my head and nuzzle my ear.

But alas, such moments of peace are fleeting.....

"Aeron, stop looking at me!" It was not, as one might expect, her twin sister making this complaint. It was Cameron. Who is 12.

I started scratching Mitzi's ears, causing her to purr madly. And since I had one ear in the pillow and she was lying across the other, she made quite an effective white noise machine.

"Aeron! Eat your breakfast and stop looking at me!" Huh. I heard that one through the cat.

Heaving the sigh of the much-put-upon, I moved the cat and climbed out of bed. I'll just tell Cam to knock it off and I'll go back to bed.

"Cameron," I said from the top of the stairs. "Are you listening to yourself?" He mumbled something and I went back to bed. Mitzi joyously came prancing up my chest and began to lick my face.

For about two minutes. The sniping started up again and I again got out of bed. Put my glasses on and marched downstairs. Cameron was seated at the dining room table, wearing earbuds attached to his MP3 player, with some kind of electronic game in front of him, eating a cheeseburger. Claire and Aeron were at the breakfast counter, not eating their bowls of Mama-made granola. Everyone was in their jammies. It was ten minutes before they all needed to leave. Miles was nowhere to be found.

"Claire and Aeron. Eat. There will be no cookies at church if you don't eat your breakfast. Cameron. What are you drinking?"

"Lemonade," sheepishly. Totally against the rules and he knows it.

"Dude. Don't make me have to be the Food Police!" I glared.

Miles poked his head in the back door. "Jen, I'm on the phone. Could you get the girls into some decent clothes for church, please?"


I hustle the little girls upstairs and into their room, with instructions to get out of their jammies and into some clothes. I go back downstairs to get a cup of coffee, only to find none in the pot. What?!?

Miles comes back into the house and I ask, "No coffee?!?"

"That coffee pot is pissing me off!" he replies. I just look at him for a moment, then get out the french press and the coffee grinder.

Aeron yells from her room, "I'm out of underpants!" Miles yells back, "Get a pair from Claire's basket!" "Noooooooo!!!!" wails Claire. Above our heads, an argument breaks out over Tinkerbell undies.

"Dad." says Cameron, coming into the kitchen. "I don't have any clean underwear." Miles covers his eyes with his hands.

The little girls are screeching at each other by this time. "Would you go deal with your daughter?!" Miles asks.

"You go deal with my daughter," I remarked, all righteously indignant. "I'm making coffee."

Miles gives me the stink eye for a moment, herds Cameron out of the kitchen, issues some orders, and then goes upstairs to wade into the fray. As I leisurely grind my dark roast, I hear snatches of the battle above.

"Daddy! I don't wanna wear that!" "You had your chance to get dressed. Now I'm picking your clothes!" "Ow! Daddy! You brushed my ear!" "Those are MY underpants!"

I was stirring in my half-and-half when Miles called out, "To the van! Claire, the van is that-away! Say goodbye to Mama!"

A couple of moist smooches on the cheek, and then all was peaceful again.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Quick update

Hello, folks.

This July has been one of the busiest we've had in recent years.... well, except that July when I gave birth to preemie twins. The wee lassies and I attended Godmother Camp, Miles and Cam went to Boy Scout Camp, there was Birthday Week and swim lessons and internships and out-of-town guests. It's been Crazy Town.

I'm awaiting some photos to write about the wonderfulness that was Godmother Camp. As soon as they hit my inbox, I have some stories to tell!

Sunday, July 11, 2010

In the middle of the night; episode 12


It's cool and dark and peaceful in my Boudoir. Miles, Mitzi and I are peacefully asleep, when Claire appears at my side of the bed.

"Mom" she whispers. "I had a bad dream."

I hold up the covers and she climbs in, Purple Blanket wrapped around her neck. We snuggle up. After, I dunno, 10 minutes? "Claire," I murmur. "Time to go back to bed." I hold the covers up, she slides out and toddles off to her room.

It's quiet and peaceful once more. I begin to drift off.



"I had another bad dream."

We repeat the cuddle process and after a few minutes, I send her back to her bed. This time, however, it's not so peaceful. I can hear a distant rooster, Mitzi had decided she needs to nuzzle my ear and the neighbor across the street with the loud car is headed to work. After the sound of the vehicle with the loose belts faded from the air, and I tossed the cat overboard, I start to relax and head back to sleep.

At which point, Claire enters, hesitating at the end of the bed, then decides Daddy is a more likely prospect. She climbs in with Miles and gets settled in. My husband turns his head and asks, "How many times has she been in here?"

"This makes three." After a suitable cuddle, Miles escorts the child back to her bed.

Then, peace finally reigned. Well, except for the rooster,

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

What's a blogger to do?

Hello, out there!

I haven't been writing because, well, I have nothing to say. Life is just ticking along. School's almost out. The little girls are their usual energetic, manic selves. I've been washing dishes, cooking meals and watering my roses. I got nothin'.

But fear not! The Clark Clan Road Trip Extravaganza kicks off on Friday, and soon I will have more content than I can handle.

Stay tuned!

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Musings on Mother's Day

Mother's Day is a emotional holiday for a lot of people. One's relationship with one's mother is often complicated, to say the least. But no other single person has as much impact on one's life as one's mother. Fathers are very important, and necessary, but your mom is ground zero, so to speak.

My mom taught me some critical things. My love of roses. A zero tolerance policy regarding disrespect from men. To indulge my curiosity. To make pie crust. And then, there are some things Mom definitely did not teach me: anything to do with sex or the female reproductive system, for example. Or how to cook. She also once advised me to NOT learn to type, 'cause then I'd be stuck in the steno pool. (bad call, Ma....)

Recently, I attended the memorial of the mother of a good friend. She was lauded and remembered as the best of mothers, a lady who alway set a gracious table and instilled good manners in her five boys. She was sweet, yet firm; a master-practitioner of "parental judo". These sort of skills and duties aren't gonna save the planet or cure cancer. They merely change the world in small, yet vital ways. To teach a young man that it is unacceptable to plunk a mayonnaise jar on the table, or chew with his mouth open, may not save his life, but it may land him a job, or impress any future in-laws.

My mother-in-law, a.k.a. "Super Gra-Maw" has taught me a lot about parenting. Her patience is legendary. (hi, Terry!) (hi, Trevor!) She, too, has a black belt in parental judo. To watch her handle my twin 4-years olds is to stand in awe of the master. She also has standards that she expects to be met. For instance, it drives the poor woman mad when the trash bins are left out in front of the house.

Then there are my children. Honestly, I'm still trying to wrap my head around the idea that I am a mother. I have to remind myself to model good behavior and manners, to eat my veggies, etc. Sometimes it really is a major drag having to be the grownup. You cannot just react to things, you gotta think 'em through and respond appropriately. There are times I just wanna flop on the sofa and eat something from a bowl, but I can't. And now I have to make my bed every morning, because I'm attempting to teach the wee lassies to make theirs. Although, Claire has an advanced technique to deal with the new chore. She refuses to sleep under the covers. She doesn't want to have to deal with the sheets in the morning.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Where does all the dirt come from?!

Today I was cleaning the master bath, tackling the hard water deposits. We have a large clerestory window facing west that provides quite a bit of light. Too much light. Suddenly I realized every surface was covered in dust, there were dust rhinos (not bunnies!) in the corners. The hair was unbelievable.... Even the door was dirty.

Where does it all come from? I found myself with a cleaning wipe (natural & biodegradable, of course) going after the grime on the pocket door. Which got me down low enough to see the dirt on all the base boards. Then I noticed how badly the carpet needs cleaning.....

Getting famous!

Our tiny little town is starting to get noticed.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

It only took me 27 years to figure out

This morning I made myself an omelet for breakfast. I sautéd a green onion from the garden , added half a seeded plum tomato and finished this masterpiece with goat cheese crumbles and freshly cracked pepper. It was yummy.

Please note: there is ham in our fridge and I did not put any in my eggs.

This is a major departure for me. I love ham; love it, love it, love it! But I decided I didn't want to eat meat this morning.

"What?!?" I hear you cry. "Who are you and what have you done with Jen?!?"

Time for some back story.

I grew up in the MidWest. Meat and potato country. Always soup and bread, never salad, territory. I moved to California in 1995, and discovered fresh veggies. Green beans were a revelation. It got to the point were my roomie asked me to please stop with the damn green beans, already! I learned what a good tomato tastes like and the joys of quality Cabernet. But I never did develop a fondness for salad. I mean, I'll eat one, especially if my kids are at the table, but I don't ever lust for the stuff.

In high school, during Philosophy class, we had a Seventh Day Adventist as a guest speaker. He was extolling the virtues of a vegetarian lifestyle. I distinctly remember asking him, " Have you ever had a good steak?" He replied, "Yes. And it tasted great. But it's not good for you."

I thought the guy was willfully insane. Really.

Having read "The Blue Zones", which totally validates the diet of the Adventists, Miles & I are eating less meat, more veggies and whole grains. At first, it felt like a real effort. You know, not eating whole grains because we liked 'em, but because it would help us live long enough to see our daughters graduate from high school. But with my omelet this morning, I realize lately, I've been making healthier choices because, well, they tasted good!

Mr. Adventist, I get it now.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

One big, happy, chaotic family

Last night, Miles and I went to the PAC to see Rockappella. For those not familiar with this group, they are 5 guys singing modern pop/rock/doo wop/Motown a cappella. It's quite a show. They dance! They sing! They pick ladies from the audience to serenade! Their talent is amazing and their music and moves are tight and well-rehearsed.

In order to attend a function like this, a surprising amount of planning and organization needs to be in place. And since the Clarks are dwellers in chaos, it's always a whirlwind of last-minute changes and forgotten details.

The original plan: Kayla will stay the night at our house and watch the little girls for us. Miles and I would drive down to Poly to see the show.

What actually happened: I jumped into the shower at 3:30, dressed and got everyone packed up and in the van by 4pm, then drove all four kids to Susan and Ron's house. Next I drove to Cal Poly to pick up Miles, then we hurried to the CPA's office to sign our taxes before 5:30pm. Then, realizing we didn't have the tickets to the show with us, we placed a panicked call to my mother-in-law, who arranged to have our tickets reprinted and waiting for us at will call. The next part was nice. My husband and I got to spend some time together. We had a leisurely dinner, and a brief stop at the bookstore before the show. We saw the performance, then headed back North to pick up the little girls. Aeron sobbed when we put her in the van to take her home. Susan, whose heart strings had been well and truly pulled, rushed out the door with a fuzzy blanket for Aeron to cuddle.

Nothing is ever simple 'round here.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010


While at Super Gra-Maw's house.....

Me: "Come on, girls. Time to go home"

Aeron: "I OBJECT!"

Saturday, March 27, 2010

In the middle of the night; episode 11 or "Meow"?!

OK, we've finally broken Aeron of the habit of waking up her parents in the middle of the night. It's been a marvelous improvement!

So you can imagine my annoyance at being woken by the cat last night. There I was, at 2am, sleeping peacefully, when I hear the cat plaintively meowing in the living room. We have a vaulted ceiling, so the meows were echoing throughout the house.

I snarl under my breath and throw back the covers, intending to stomp downstairs and figure out what Mitzi's damage is. Then I hear the soft trill from the kitten sleeping at the foot of the bed, in her usual spot. What the heck?! Our cat is who is meowing downstairs?!?

I head downstairs, flipping on some lights as I go and, in the living room, I find a skittish, plump, tiger tabby yelling to get out the front door. I've seen this kitty before; he belongs to the new neighbors across the cul-de-sac.

"What are you doing in here?" I whisper to the cat. I'm not sure why. I open the front door and the cat makes a top-speed run for it.

"Huh." I climbed the stairs, shaking my head, and fell back into bed.

An amusing coda to my tale: Kayla gets up this morning and tells me about the weird dream she had last night. There was a cat in her room, meowing at her, and it wasn't Mitzi. She open her door to let the cat out and went back to bed. Next she dreamed she was Charles Manson, being sentenced to death.

"The first part wasn't a dream, kid. The neighbors cat got in our house somehow." I told her. "But the Manson part, that was weird."

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Small triumphs

It's the little things, you know?

Last night for dinner, I made pasta e fagioli, a bean and pasta soup. Complete with buttery, garlic croûtons made from home-made bread. Where's the triumph in that, you ask?

First, one of Cameron's buddies was over, and he didn't want to go home. He wanted to stay and eat with us.

Next, I had to threaten Cameron with a frying pan to keep him out of the kitchen 'till dinner time. He kept snitching croûtons and was drooling in my soup. (he is in a growth spurt and eating a lot!)

The best part was Aeron. She begged me, with big blue eyes tearing up, for plain pasta. It had been a while since I'd made this and like any other kid, she views new kinds of food with deep suspicion. I didn't have any patience to deal with her issues, so I served her what everyone else was eating, soup with pasta garnished with croûtons. Aeron shlumped over to the table, whining all the way. But with Cameron giving enthusiastic encouragement, she tried her soup. Then, she ate it, every last bit. And then declared dinner "scrum-dum-delicious!"

Miles & I told her how very proud we were of her for trying something new, and then gave her ice cream for dessert.

You parents out there will understand; this is a big deal!

Claire wouldn't touch her soup. Luckily, she was sitting next to Cameron, who manfully volunteered to eat it for her. The rule in our house is: you eat what's offered or you don't eat; your choice. To her credit, Claire went to bed having eaten zero dinner without complaining. This is another win for the parents!

Sunday, March 7, 2010

4 years old, and she's got it figured out

Claire has a thing for this boy at preschool. His name is Miles and he's actually a kindergartner, who then comes to preschool the other half of the day. Miles hasn't responded well to Claire's declarations of love. She asked him to marry her a couple of months back, and she was shot down in flames.

Last Friday after school, she told me it was Miles' birthday. "He brought cupcakes!" she said.

"Did you all sing happy birthday?" I asked.

"Yup. But I didn't kiss him."

"You didn't? Why not?" I inquired.

She looked at me, and said in a disgusted tone, "He doesn't want to marry me! He doesn't get kisses!"

Words to live by, kid.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Rose junkie

I think I have a problem. It seems I'm addicted to roses. I'm apparently completely unable to stop buying bare root roses for my garden. Just yesterday, I bought 6! Which brings me to a total of 12 new roses this spring.

Where am I planting all these flowers, I hear you ask? Well, I had to rip out a hedge to make space. I now have a total of 25 rose bushes in my front garden.

My husband goes through this every year. He smiles and tolerates my addiction, for a limited time. When I came home from a trip to Home Depot, ostensibly to purchase mulch, with 4 more roses, he put his foot down.

"OK, enough!"

That fine, I was running out of room anyway. Well, until I rip out some more of the lawn.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Snow trip

Our wee lassies hadn't ever seen real, live, snow up close, tiny little Californians that they are. Which is pretty shameful when you consider their mama is a Michigander and their father is from a family of Ulster Scots.

It became very clear, Something Needed to Be Done!

Miles and I took the kids to play in the snow last weekend. We got a room in the John Muir Lodge, geared up and went to frolic in the white stuff. Even me!

Jonathan and Emmanuel joined us and a splendid time was had by all.

Monday, February 8, 2010

My most favorite time of the year

My nails are broken & dirty, my jeans are muddy, I have a bruise the size of a grapefruit on my backside, and I have wood chips in my hair. Today, I have used a keyboard, a Kitchen Aid, a shovel and a hatchet.

I'm so happy.

It's bare root season!

Early spring is the time of year when I'm just giddy with anticipation. Ah, the joy of cruising the rose bins at the nurseries, selecting new bushes for my collection. The sheer pleasure of perusing the glossy seed catalogues (a.k.a. "garden porn") The gratification of a well-pruned fruit tree. The thrill of imagining the front garden as a riot of flowers and fruit and sweet scents. The delightful chore of deciding what will be included in our organic veggie garden.

I gotta go plant something....

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

What a difference a plate makes

So, regular readers will remember the bet I have going with Miles. If I can get into my vintage cocktail dress by our anniversary (May 11), he'll take me to House of Prime Rib in San Francisco for dinner.

Now, I need to lose some serious tonnage before I can get into the peacock dress. Losing weight always seems such a battle doomed to fail for me. But I have discovered a very useful technique in the battle of the bulge!

Small plates.

Yup. Just by using a small plate, you eat less.

I will confess right now; I LOVE to eat. And I love to cook. Often, I have excused my less-than-trim figure by saying, "Never trust a skinny cook!" But let's cut through the bullshit. I'm over- weight. I'm at risk for diabetes. I have young children. I need to take care of myself, so I can take care of my family.

Having hear about this diet trick, I've been keeping my eye out for small plates on the cheap. I found 'em last weekend at Target. 8 salad plates for 7 bucks. The first time the whole family used them was t'other night when I made baked macaroni-n-cheese. A little back story: whenever I make this, we all eat like pigs. Everyone has seconds, and even thirds. It's (pardon my ego) really good stuff. Usually, we eat 90% of the casserole and the kids almost come to blows over the small amount of leftovers.

This time, on the small plates, the family only ate half of the casserole.

I'm just amazed. Without thinking about it, we all ate noticeably less, merely by using a smaller plates.

I think I'm on to something....

Sunday, January 31, 2010


It's Sunday morning. The girls and I are having breakfast and I think to myself, "I need to go to Target for 'X'." A slurp of strong coffee and a moment later, I cannot remember what I need at Target. I sat in that chair and went back over my train of thought for at least a half a cup of java, and I simply can't remember!

I used to have a fabulous memory. If you dropped me on Ford Road, I could take you to the apartment I lived in when I was 5 years old. I remember the address of the place I lived in when I was 7. I remember my grandmother's phone number she got in 1977. (602.996.1275!) But now, I can't remember something I thought of one minute earlier.

I don't think I'm having a senior moment. I'm pretty sure it's a form of Mommy Brain. See, it starts when you're pregnant. When I was about 5 months along, I got out of our minivan one afternoon, and left the door open. It was open all night. It rained that night. Whoops. And the battery was dead. Then after the babies were born, there was a combo of hormones and psychosis-inducing sleep deprivation; I was utterly witless. Oh, and I cried a lot. Now, I'm getting decent sleep and the hormones have leveled out, mostly. And I can't remember the simplest thing! It drives me to despair.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Hands down, the worst night's sleep in recorded parent history

Ah, where to begin? Perhaps some back story is in order.

There are many factors that combined to create the disaster that was last night. We attended a brunch and Claire & Aeron had a great time playing with other kids, and other kids' toys. Then we came home and spent the afternoon in the back yard; Miles and I were weeding and the girls and Cam were having a gay ole time digging in the dirt, whacking trees with garden implements, and climbing the fence, etc. Aeron kept throwing rocks at her daddy, the naughty thing... As a result of all this thrilling activity, the girls didn't nap yesterday, so by 7pm, they were exhausted, sobbing wrecks. Once they settled down, they were out like a light. In addition, Aeron has had a cough. It's getting better, she's not really sick; it's most likely a post-nasal drip thing.

Then there is the pissing contest between Kayla and Mitzi. Literally. Kayla's been gone a lot, as the Templeton Mock Trial Team is gearing up for the big competition. Mitzi, for reasons of her own, has been using Kayla's bed as a litter box. As you can imagine, this makes an already tense and irritable Kayla still yet more irritable. She didn't have the time or the will to deal with the problem on Friday and slept on the family room couch. So, Kayla got home yesterday evening from an away scrimmage that had lasted all day and she was beat. She threw her bedding in the wash, then flopped on the sofa bed in the living room and was instantly asleep.

OK, so, three kids down, one left. Cameron and his dad were in the family room, playing with Cam's Mindstorm set. (Think robotic Lego's). The boys had a grand time and Cam was in bed by 10:30. Miles joins me in the bed, we're both reading a book with a glass of wine, and peace descends on the house.

That's when the fun began.

Aeron started to cough. She'd cough for bit, there'd be a pause, then she'd cough some more. After a couple rounds of this, she began to cry/whine. I can't remember which of us went first, but one of us went in to her and came out carrying Aeron back to our bed. She'd snuggle for a bit, falling back to sleep, then Miles would carry her back to bed, prop her up on her reading pillow, cover her with Pink Blanket and give her Blue Bear to cuddle.

We did this three more times by midnight. The cherry on the sundae? Kayla, whose sleep has been disrupted, asking me from her position on the living room sofa, in that teen-age tone of voice (the one that seems to say, "why are you so stupid?!"), "Jen, why don't you give her a drink of water or some cough medicine?!" I don't recall what I answered, but I'm quite certain it wasn't polite. Then Miles suggested I turn up the heat, maybe that would help Aeron sleep. The nut sprinkles on top? I checked the thermostat; someone had turned the heat off. It was 64 degrees. I turned it back on and that seemed to make the difference.

About an hour later, Claire woke up, discovered she'd had an accident and came sobbing into our room. She was most distraught because Purple Blanket was wet. I handled this one, leaving Miles to snooze. So I clean the girl up; get her new jammies, tuck her back in, find an acceptable replacement for Purple Blanket, swear to the child I'll wash Purple Blanket tomorrow. While I'm in their room, I prop Aeron up on her pillow, just for good measure.

So now it about 1:45am and I'm wide awake. I noodle around on the internet for a bit, have a couple of pieces of medicinal chocolate, then head back to bed. I'm just getting back to sleep when I hear someone ratting around downstairs, going in and out of the garage. Next I hear someone snarling, then someone stomping up the stairs. Kayla stands in darkened doorway to our room, and loudly, and disgustedly declares, "Mitzi just peed on bed! While I watched! I'm so mad!" then stomps off.

Miles tells me that he was awake for a couple of hours after that. I managed to get back to sleep, eventually. My husband, hero that he is, still managed to get up and get all the kids to church. I, on the other hand, helped get the little girls dressed for church, then collapsed back into bed and slept 'til 2pm.

I love my children. Really, I do. I just wish they'd let me sleep.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

In the middle of the night; episode 10


Is that a little girl I hear? It's hard to tell; I have the manic purring of a neurotic kitten in my right ear, and the gentle snoring of my beloved husband in my left. I pick my head up off the pillow. Yup, that's the faint sound of a whining Aeron, drifting gently through the night.

Maybe she'll stop.....please stop....just go to sleep, kid!

But, of course, she doesn't stop.

I stumble into the girls' room and find the light on, Aeron kneeling next to her bed, ratting through her shoe basket.

"Aeron. What's wrong?" I whisper as I turn off the light.

"Mom! My foots itch!"

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Life lessons

Lately, it seems life is attempting to teach me a few things.

Lesson the first - Stop gripping about energetic children.

Claire has been down with a virus all this week. It started with throwing up, followed by fever, listlessness, and sniveling, then some more throwing up. This caused all sorts of wrinkles in scheduled activities, not mention worry and interrupted sleep. I think I'd much rather have healthy, climbing-the-walls kids.

Lesson the second - Do not allow a geek to choose your cell phone.

My cell phone was dying, exhibiting weird hardware quirks and refusing to hold a charge. I went to my providers website, and picked out a new phone. Miles was in charge of ordering, then I get this call from him. He's breathless with excitement; there's a smoking deal on a smart phone! Buy one, get one free! I just couldn't bring myself to rain on his gadget parade. Two days later, the box arrives and now I'm trying to figure out this gizmo that is way more phone than I need. So far, I've managed to choose a wallpaper and a ringtone. No clue how to actually use the thing.

Lesson the third - Virtue is more than just it's own reward.

I have a deal on with my sweetie. If I can fit into my vintage peacock cocktail dress by our anniversary, he'll take me to House of Prime Rib in San Francisco. I started the year with some success; five pounds were gone. And that was all about dietary virtue. No wine, more whole grains and veggies, no afternoon coffee or late night snacks. I fell off the wagon last night; a couple of glasses of wine and a 10pm nibble. Result? A pound and a half back. Seems a pretty clear cause-and-effect relationship to me.

Message received. Consider me lessoned, already!

Sunday, January 3, 2010

The end of the old year and the ringing in of the new

2009 is over. Hallelujah!

For some, it was worst than for others. Kids without insurance getting cancer. People losing their jobs. Good friends transferred to places they'd really rather not be. Folks unable to afford their mortgage payment, yet unable to sell the house. The Templeton Clarks have little to complain about, really. Miles was "furloughed" as he is a State of California employee. Which meant he got two unpaid days off a month, and a 10% cut in salary. Like so many occurrences in life, it may have been a blessing in disguise. The reduction in income has forced us to look at what we were spending our money on and to cut away the fat. It required us to not spending frivolously at Christmas. We bought less gifts, and instead, made more cookies together.

The Dodges came to celebrate New Year's Eve with us. We had 6 kids in the house, plus Mother and Father Clark and my favorite brother-in-law Trevor, as well. Nice crowd. We feasted, Miles and Johan washed dishes, Melinda made chocolate fondue, the little girls stuffed themselves silly with angel food cake. I confess I almost didn't make it to midnight. While others played Monopoly, I was horizontal on the sofa with my eyes closed. But the pop of champagne corks roused me from my slumbers and lots of kisses and hugs and good wishes for the new year were loudly declared. ( how Claire and Aeron slept through it all I do not know....)

Next morning, Johan made a Dutch yummy, poffertjes. Along with a truly decadent amount of country bacon. Then Miles washed more dishes, bless his heart. Then the Dodges needed to head back home.