Tuesday, December 20, 2011

I rearranged the furniture

I'm one of those.

Some women won't leave the house without makeup. Some people can't stand even the suggestion of dirt on their floors.  Me, I rearrange the furniture. Move art around on the walls. Dig up plants and plant them in a different spot. Some people think I'm nuts. (hi, Terry!)

I got bored with the look of my blog and started dorking around with it. Also, the title, while venerable, is a bit wordy, so that got edited as well.

Let me know what y'all think.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Well. Glad I asked.

Great news! I am officially fused. Saw my surgeon today and he looked at my X-Ray, said I was doing excellently well and he never wanted to see me again. And since the only reason me and this fella ever hooked up in the first place was chronic, debilitating, agonizing pain, I am perfectly OK with him dumping me like this.

During question and answer time, and since the guy does have a medical degree, I asked, "So. Why do kids always barf in the middle of the night?" Without turning a hair, the nice neurosurgeon said, "Hormones".

Turns out, as part of the diurnal cycle, some hormone drops in the wee hours and this reduces some kind of pressure and if there is any inclination, then starts the horking. "They're not doing it just to be ornery."

Huh. Good to know.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Song stylings by Clairezie Clark

"Now we know our daily peril!
Fa, la, la, la, la, la, la, la la!"

Barfing at 4am

Of all the many joys of parenthood, one of the most wonderful is the Barfing Child in the Middle of the Night.

It must be a rule somewhere. They must start throwing up in the small hours. Under no circumstances is the sick child to start the barfing at a reasonable time, like, say 8pm. No, they have to wait until the parents are sleeping and defenseless, and perhaps, have had a glass of wine or two.

Early this morning, Aeron got out the Kid Playbook, and followed it, right down the line.

Miles and I had been to a Christmas Party with old friends. The girls had spent the evening with Kayla, attempting to make a gingerbread house. (A fail, unfortunately. Not enough structural integrity.) We were home by 9:30pm or so, and had put the girls straight to bed. All seemed well. Us 'rents had retired to bed, each with our own book and lights were out by 11pm.

Scruffy, the newest addition to our family, was being difficult, wanting love at the same time I wanted sleep. So, he got chucked out of the Boudoir and the door was closed behind him.

The first sign of trouble was the muffled sound of crying. Which then got a lot louder at the kid opened the door, and staggered into the bathroom, throwing up the whole way.  I will spare y'all the details. Let's just say, we needed to use the shop vac, and leave it at that. (Hi, Tom! We were thinking of you, but decided not to call...)

Poor Boo was sobbing and yucky. I got her cleaned up and changed into clean jammies as Miles attended to carpet-cleanup.  After the child was tidyed up, she was still upset and not sure she was finished barfing. So, I sat with her on the bathroom floor and tried to calm her down. I wasn't having much luck, even with the help of Blue Bear, when Scruffy came to see what all the fuss was about. He surveyed the scene and then crawled up in Aeron's lap, purring his brains out. She was instantly diverted, petting and snuggling the warm, thrumming teddy bear in her lap.

When I put her back to bed, the cat followed and jumped up to lay down on her bed next to her, purring loudly the whole time.

The poor kid has been throwing up every hour and a half or so since. She can't even keep anti-nausea meds down.  And then she looks at me and says, "Mama! I haven't even had breakfast or lunch and I'm soooo hungry!"

Thursday, December 15, 2011

While Christmas shopping....

Me: "There's a 'Barbie in the Bathroom' set. Would you look at that? She even comes with a pastel toilet."

Him: "It's 'Poopin' Barbie!'"

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Follies on Ice

Last weekend saw the entire Clark Clan in San Francisco. We shop, we eat and we ice skate!


Sunday, December 4, 2011

Morning Repartee

Upon being awoken by the sound of small girls barking like excited puppies.... 

Me: "I was dreaming I was having a very earnest discussion with the King of Bhutan about sexual equality."

Him: "Oh, yeah? Where'd he come down on the issue?"

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Recuperation: Lessons in humiliation

I know I said I wouldn't be posting for a bit. But that was before I knew how gawd-awful bored I'd be.

"Bored?!" I hear you cry. "Why, I'd love to have no responsibilities for 8 weeks!" Ah, but let's think this through, shall we? I had surgery on October 7th. Which means I'm in "leisure" mode for 8 weeks, until December 2nd. 

  • 8 weeks in which I cannot drive. The first 3 of which I'm not allowed to even ride in a car.  Which means I'm stuck at home, with nothing better to do than contemplate my shortcomings as a housekeeper. (Ever had you mother-in-law mop your kitchen floor? On the very first day of babysitting you? Ye gods...) You sit in a chair, unable to focus on the simply riveting book on cottage gardening the husband got you, and see all these items that need attention. Tragically, you can't do anything about it, because you have.....

  • 8 weeks of not lifting anything heavier than 3lbs. See some monster dust bunnies on top of the bookshelf? Forget about tidying them up before the m-i-l sees them; the step ladder weights about 10lbs. Care to pet the cat in all your leisure time? Mitzi weights about 8lbs. She'll need to come to you. (and, since she's a cat, odds are she'll just flop down with her back to you as you attempt to coax her into your lap) Want to look something up in your Random House Dictionary of the English Language, The Unabridged Edition? Ask your beck-and-call boy to fetch it down for you when he gets home from work; he'll get right on that.

  • 8 weeks of no chores. Need some clean undies? Talk to the temp housewife; he'll try to get to it this week. Feeling the snap of Fall in the air and have a craving for your Baked Potato Soup? Ask the temp cook; sorry, he has something else planned for dinner tonight. I'm totally at the mercy of my husband for meals, a clean pair of socks and whether or not my potted roses survive. He's been more than sweet, but remember, we still have 7 weeks to go.
In an effort to keep from tearing out my hair, and/or doing something that might compromise my surgical repairs, I've become a FaceBook junkie, although posting about how bored I am is starting to provoke some backlash. Also I've become a compulsive follower of Royal Family (British, that is) gossip. (Looks like the UK may finally get rid of that ridiculous "boys are better than girls" clause in the Act of Settlement 1701. About time, poncy, misogynist bastards.) Additionally, I've taken to reading the NY Times, the Telegraph and the L.A. Times cover to cover. (hi, Chris!)

Basically, this is a preview of the indignities of an infirm old age, children. You can't do anything for yourself, you must wait for family members to help you out. You sit around listening to the crickets chirp while waiting for somebody, anybody, to have time for you. If ever there was a better incentive to get in better shape as the years creep on, I can't imagine it. And if you know someone in this situation; please, rack up some good karma, and stop by with the Scrabble board. Soon.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Going dark for a while

To my devoted readers:
 (all two of you)

The Fab Adventure is going radio silence for a bit. I'm going in the shop for a bit a body work and won't be posting for a few weeks. However, the comic possibilities of the situation should give me plenty of material for when I'm able to write again.  Meanwhile, enjoy the Fall weather and please send good vibes towards Miles. He's going to need all the positive energy he can get!


Friday, September 9, 2011

Wee Goddess of Fashion

Tonight was Back To School Night. Crowds of parents visiting class rooms, lots of people I knew to talk to. The teachers go over their procedures and explain the  expectations  of 1st grade. 3 different parents told me how much they liked Aeron's ensemble today. 

A polo with little horsies, a plaid skirt, pink leggings and stripy socks with sparkles. Oh, and a backpack almost as big as she is.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

"Of course, you realize, this means war!" *

There is a gopher eating my roses! The body count is now 5 (possibly 6) dead roses and one damaged-beyond-recovery apple tree.

This was "Perfumed Delight". Also killed were "Mister Lincoln", "Double Delight", "Tropicana", and "Fragrant Plum".

That gopher is about to meet it's Maker!

* Give yerself a pat on the back if you recognize the quote!

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

First Grade!

After school and still perky! 

Monday, August 22, 2011

Higher Education in the 21st Century

The ever-increasing rate at which technology develops and becomes part of day-to-day life is just blowing my mind. I'm completely astounded at how life today looks amazingly like life in science fiction novels of yesterday.

A few years back, I read the 1999 novel "The Gumshoe, The Witch & The Virtual Corpse" by Keith Hartman. The story takes place in 2024, and teenagers at school all carry around a "notebook" which can be a word-processor and self-managing searcher of the Internet, all interfaced by voice.  They also can make sub-rosa video phone calls during class. People have "agents", AI's with names, and personalities that range from manic-depressive (Sherwin) to horribly perky (Mindy). These agents conduct Internet research, make phone calls, and print invoices. Folks walk around with speakers in their ears, and, in the case of The Gumshoe, printers on their belts. Everyone makes use of available technology as a matter of course. Parents are even able to program the locks on the house to record what time the kids get home from school.

Now to current reality. It is (for those not paying attention) 2011, 13 years prior to the setting of Hartman's book. Teenagers are carrying around MacBooks, with which they can make video phone calls, hopefully, not during class. Internet searches still need to managed by the kid, though. People do walk about with speakers in their ears and we have wireless printers which are getting smaller and more portable all the time. There are electronic locks on the market now that will tell you when they have been opened and with whose key or password it was opened with. (Gotta get me me one of those....)

What set me down this reflective rabbit hole was listening to the Teenager talking to her already-at-college bestie via Skype t'other day. She was able to see her friend's dorm room, including the view out the window, and even meet her friend's roomies, fer crying out loud. And remember the communicators on Star Trek? 10 years ago we had flip-open cell phones that did a lot more than Kirk's device ever did. Folks, the Future is Now.

What will life with technology look like when the Wee Lassies get to college in 12 years?!?

Saturday, August 20, 2011

"Floopy Hoop-de-do"

So, I started a new drug for nerve pain a while back. Neurontin, it's called. Apparently, it works by suppressing the central nervous system. It's been pretty effective for me, but the side effects are, well, interesting.

For one thing, I'm clumsy as hell. I was in Ross with the girls a couple weeks ago and knocked over, and broke, this large urn. An $80 urn. The employees were very nice, "don't worry about it" and "happens all the time." I felt like an idiot. Later that same day, I very nearly dropped a stack of lamp shades on my head. Yeesh.

But the worst side effect is my inability to access long-term memory. I notice it most when I'm trying to describe or identify things. A recent example:

Me: "I'd like to line the driveway with that...stuff. You know ...the grass...um, decorative... You know!?"

Miles: "No."

Me: "You know! The....uh....floopy......uh.... hoop-de-do!"

Miles: "'floopy hoop-de-do' ?!?" He dissolves into giggles.

Me: "You know! The purple floopy grass!"

Miles, sniggering: "'Floopy!' "

Me: "Arrgh! Purple.....uh.... fountain grass. That one. What do you think?"

Miles: "About what?" He tries to stop laughing at me.

Me: "Planting purple fountain grass along the ....um...shit!...um...driveway?!"

Wednesday, August 17, 2011


I just ran across the fourth word I had to look up in this book. I'm only on page 137!

The word? Epistemology.

Per Wikipedia, it  is the branch of philosophy concerned with the nature and scope (limitations) of knowledge.[1] It addresses the questions:
  • What is knowledge?
  • How is knowledge acquired?
  • How do we know what we know?
Guess I shouldn't have ditched all those philosophy classes, huh?

Addendum: Damn! Page 142 - panatelas. A long slender cigar. Jeez....

The politics of lunch

Recently, the New York Times ran an article about a Colorado school district that has gone back to making lunches from scratch. They even hired a chef who trained at the CIA. And they are finding it is less expensive than feeding the kids the packaged, factory-produced crap they used to.

Other, better writers than I have written reams on this topic. The reasons for the abysmal school lunches in the past few decades are myriad and insidious. A lot of it can be laid at the door of our government; farm politics, subsidies, the actions of PACs, etc.

But we, the people, the parents, have to take our  share of the blame, too. We were totally asleep at the switch when school started feeding that swill to our kids. And it's not like parents didn't know; how may jokes have there been about "Mystery Meat"?

But somehow, it wasn't that important. No one seemed to mind. The kids didn't eat that slop anyway; most of it ended up in the trash. Right?

Circa 1977, in Downriver Detroit, at Seitz Junior High, I remember eating a plate of French fries for lunch every day. A large plate of freshly made, yummy fries. The lunch ladies would give me the stink eye, because French fries alone do not a healthy lunch make. But it was uncool to eat the school lunch. I seem to remember the lunches were cooked on site. We certainly could smell food in the hallways before hand. It wasn't until I moved to Phoenix that I discovered the joys of hot, dreadful, pre-made, frozen, then reheated food; the Pizza Snack! This was a thick paste made of TVP, heavily salted and sugared tomato sauce, and some faux cheese; all wrapped in a thin flour tortilla-like thing, soggy from being microwaved in it's plastic wrapping. I loved them! But on days I felt like a change, I'd get a bean burrito; extra-crispy  around the edges from being deep-fat fried. I don't recall ever drinking milk at lunch after elementary school. (It's a miracle my bone density is as good as it is.) My friends and I would line up at the Snack Bar, get our Pizza Snacks and Cokes and then find a spot to sit somewhere on campus. I never ate my fake food in the cafeteria, unless it was raining. Two reasons; only people without friends sat there, and also, on most days, there was a food fight. Also, the cafeteria was the site of study hall and detention. And who wants to go there? But I digress.

So, lunches at school have been horrible for decades. We are just now getting around to trying to fix it. I, for one, would be happy to pay more taxes for the schools if they would use those funds to feed the kids decently. Hell, if every family chipped in $100 a semester to a food fund, maybe we could at least get some proper meals for the students. And I don't even care if it's not my kids they are feeding; I pack lunches for my kids, and reportedly, they (mostly) eat them. There are some kids for whom school meals are their biggest meal, or their only meals. No kid should be hungry. Children have no control over their families' economic situation; should they be punished for being poor? We need to feed those children. A well-nourished child performs better in school. Better school performance leads to opportunities to better their lives. I am willing to pay for that.

 OK, I'm off my soapbox now. "Nuff said.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Pollan's doing it to me again

During GodMother Camp, I used my freedom to visit several bookstores. I browsed at a leisurely pace, sipping hot coffee and reveled in the absence of rampaging offspring. I stocked up on some used kids books and also found a few books I've been wanting to read, including "Second Nature; a gardener's education" by Michael Pollan.

I'm only on page 81, and the man has sent me scurrying to the dictionary twice already. And you gotta love a chapter entitled "Compost and Its Moral Imperatives".

Wait. Who's being grounded?

I'm not really sure what it is about kids. They seem all cute and sweet and harmless, until you put a couple of 'em together in a room for several hours, several days running. Then, they morph into pint-sized demons of disorder and tumult who whine for snacks every 2 hours. 

Claire and Aeron have been grounded for the past week. They've been making forts out of pillows, blankets and even their mattresses, throwing their books all over and literally ripping things off the walls.They amuse themselves for hours, playing make-believe with their stuffies, dressing up in different clothes and  jumping and thumping around. Their room looks like a giant has picked up the house and given it a really good shake.

Now, there is a upside to having your small children confined to one room. You can put away all the stuff in all the other rooms without interference or complaint. Not that dealing with clutter is my idea of a picnic, but making order out of chaos gives me some job satisfaction. For many years, I had a quote from the lifestyle maven Alexandra Stoddard on my desk. "Order is a gift we give ourselves, " she said. (This was when I did not have children) She also believed in sorting through jelly beans and only putting the flavors you like in the candy dish. Go figure. 

Friday night, I went down with a cold, so Miles manned the home front alone all weekend. I honestly think he's better at managing the Wee Lassies than I am. He takes them to the park and runs them around with a soccer ball. He has the girls run small errands about the house. He even gets them (sometimes) to pick up their room in exchange for a popsicle. This afternoon he took for a hike on the Harmony Trail. They always* want him to read the bedtime story; they only ask me as a last resort. He's really good, but as always, he's outnumbered.

By Sunday night, he was getting flustered and I'm sure looking forward to work tomorrow, so he can rest up. "Hurry up and get well" he said, shaking a finger at me. "I'm tired of being a single parent!"

*unless someone cooler is around, like Cal, Super Gra-Maw or Uncle Brett

A rotten week

OK, so, it's been a lousy week.

There has been unnecessary drama with the teenager. I've had drunk neighbors shout and spit obscenities in my face. My twin darlings were caught doing awful things I'm too ashamed to describe. I had to tell the neighbor kid they were playing with that he was not longer welcome at my house or could play with my daughters.

And now  I have a cold.

Last night, as the virus hit, I decided a hot shower would help make me feel better. My mistake was not looking down at the tub as I stepped in. Ever step on a plastic dinosaur? They are poky and hard plastic and I cursed and slipped and flailed about trying to regain my balance.

After my shower, I just gave up and went to bed.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

The Birthday Lookie-Loo

I do this every year. I ponder the reality of getting older, and try to figure out if I'm heading in the right direction. Oh, and what direction did I want to go, anyway?

Today I turn 46. Not a huge number, compared to some (hi, Papa!) But older than I've ever been.

So, where am I at? I have a wonderful husband. Truly, Miles is a gem of love and support, an excellent father and an all-around funny guy. Most people don't know how funny he is, but I'm here to tell ya; dude is a crack-up! Also, he's a stellar BBQer, and easily the most patient man I have ever known. He makes me a fabulous husband.

I have great kids. Kayla is about to launch into the world. And the world better be prepared, 'cause she'll be running this planet in 20 years or so. Cameron turns 13 tomorrow. He's a sweet kid, and his little sisters adore him. He's also developing quite a subtle and snarky sense of humor. Plus, he's got great hair. I anticipate this is the year the girls start to circle like hungry sharks. Also, this is probably the year he gets taller than me.

Then, there are my daughters, Claire and Aeron. The girls turn 6 on Friday. What can I say to convey the whirlwind produced by the Wee Lassies? They have such boundless energy; imagine Kayla squared! They are endlessly inquisitive; it has been said small children ask 200 questions a day. Which makes approximately 400 inquiries launched at me every, single day. We do have a rule, though. No questions until Mama has had her coffee. But they also laugh. They laugh with such joy! They are so loving. They have known nothing but love, so they give only love. They fling their arms around everyone, with very sincere affection. When Daddy comes home, he is greeted like a rock star, each and every time. Claire and Aeron are at a stage where they are figuring out who is "in our family".  Luckily, we have a large family for them to love. Susan, Ron and Brandi DeCarli, Chris and Caitlin Neumann, Super Gra-Maw and Papa, Uncle Trevor, Great Papa, Cousin Karen, Uncle Brett, Uncle Clay-doh; and those are just the folks we see often! Few people can resist their charm.

I have a comfortable home in a beautiful area of the Central Coast. I live where people like to vacation.  I could wish to have a larger decorating budget, and I really would like to get baseboards in the downstairs bath, but that's a very minor thing. Our fruit trees are producing, we have folks next door who will feed the cat or from whom we can borrow an egg. The kids play all over the neighborhood. Our family  is happy here.

There are areas that need improvement in my 46 year-old life.

I've suffered enough with the pinched nerve. It will have been 6 years on Saturday. Time to get that shit fixed. Once I have the neurosurgery to repair that little problem, I will no longer have the excuse to not exercise. And I need to exercise! Because of ....

...perimenopause! My already slow metabolism has slowed to a crawl. Also known as the "Kurth Curse". We tend towards plumpness. Well, actually, we tend to be fat. I'd been doing fairly well, fighting the Curse, but lately have been losing the battle. I don't wanna go there!

I need to get out more. I'm a social creature, yet I love to stay at home. I need to find a social outlet.

I need to use my brain more. Use it or lose it, so the saying goes.

I need to stop being "Sweatpants Woman". I should make the effort to foof up from time to time. Despite hearing my man say, "you look fine without makeup".  (I'm pretty sure that in the Married Man's Manual, that's a required statement)

As I add up the pluses and minuses, I realize how very good my life is. Guess 46 will be a great year.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Fourth of July

 Happy Independence Day, all!

Monday, May 23, 2011

This is definately one for the rehersal dinner

It's a beautiful spring here in Mayberry. Flowers are bloomin', birds are singin', new life is burgeoning everywhere. And the kindergarteners are learning about babies. Frog babies, chicken and duck babies, bunny babies.

(You parents in the room can see where this is going, right?)

Yep. Now they are curious about people babies. 

Aeron asks me, solemnly, "Mama? How do people babies get into their mama's tummy?" 

Oh, lord. I'm so not ready for this. "It's very complicated, sweetie. We'll talk about it later." I'm thinking, like, in 5 years or so. 

"Later, like in 10 minutes?" she asks. 

"No, some other day. When you are older." 

"I know how." pipes up Claire. "The mama keeps eating and eating and then the baby shows up."

Thursday, May 19, 2011

I am a whiny, candyass wimp

I picked up "The Dirty Life" last Saturday, while Miles and I were on a anniversary getaway. It's a memoir, as the subtitle says, of farming, food and love. I finished it Sunday night, because I just couldn't put it down. Kristen Kimball writes of her life as she leaves a career as a travel writer, NYC (and her rent-controlled apartment!) to start a CSA in upstate New York with a farmer so idealistic, he doesn't believe in building a house using nails. Now, that's one hell of a leap of faith. 

Kimball describes, in picturesque, gory detail, the realities of running a farm. Yeah, it looks all bucolic driving past on the road, but running a farm means daily dealings with numerous varieties of animal shit, being at the mercy of the weather and the needs of those animals and the inescapable nature of death. Often, death you dealt with your own hands. 

Oh, and the work. Intense, physical, hard, astonishingly dirty work. Milking cows by hand as they do their best to kick you. Hauling buckets, harnessing draft horses, planting acres of potatoes in the dark, slinging bales of hay around, weeding 40 different kinds of vegetables with a hoe. Kimball reports incidents of being run over by a steer and knocked over and swarmed by hungry, biting pigs.

What could possibly be the compensation for such drudgery and grossness, I hear you ask? I can tell you in one word: food. Delicious, organic, I-grew-it-myself food. Kimball, a vegetarian for 13 years, tried her future husband's homemade pork sausage, had two helpings, and that was the end to any restrictions to her diet. She wallows in root vegetables that could make a grown man swoon, drinks maple sap straight for the bucket, glories in fresh milk and cream from a sloe-eyed Jersey cow named Delia.*

Now, comparing oneself to others seems to be a persistent trait in the human animal. We just can't help it. "Am I prettier than her?" or "Does he make more money than me?" or "Am I the worst dancer here?" It's a pretty useless hobby, when you think about it. What damn difference does it make if she is prettier than you? 

All that said, as I read this book, I still couldn't help but think that I am an absolutely useless, whiny human being who would die after one normal day of Kimball's life. I moan about how hard it is to keep a suburban house tidy, or how tired I am after a day of wrangling a couple of kindergarteners. Puh-leeze! This woman works herself to exhaustion every single day, and loves it. Really. Kimball swears she loves the dirt and the chores and working herself 'til she drops. The mud, and blood and sweat and gore seems to make her feel alive. The physicality of the sore muscles, the intense gratification of flavorful foods you produced yourself, are their own rewards. 

Something to envy.

*She loves the man who doesn't believe in nails, too.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Spring in Mayberry

My rose garden is poised to burst forth into glorious bloom. "Our Lady of Guadalupe" and "Angel Face" are always the first to bloom.

We were able to have dinner outside for the first time this year. This is the view from our front deck dining room.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Field trip to the goat farm!

Aeron snuggling a kid.

Claire feeding a dairy goat a cracker.

Thursday, April 7, 2011


It's the little things, ya know?

Today, I attempted to open a new bottle of moisturizer. (with SPF 15!) One of those pump bottles where the pump is locked down and you are supposed to turn it counter-clockwise to pop it up.

I can't get it open. And this isn't an isolated incident, either. I cannot seem to open any pump bottle. Lotion, ketchup, sunscreen; I can't do it. Inevitably, after wrestling with the damn thing for 10 minutes or so, I will hand it to my husband to open it for me. Makes me feel like a useless, wimpy girl.

Another thing I can't do; keep a clean house.

This one drives me to despair. I can mop the floor and 5 minutes later, someone will walk through with muddy shoes or pour milk all over the place. I will pick up the myriad of papers my twin daughters bring home from school, turn my back for just a moment, and those selfsame papers are all over Kingdom Come again. Makes me wanna pick up a rock and bash myself with it.

I know, I know...."First World" problem. But there's gotta be a way, right? There must be some way to keep the house from looking like a tornado hit. There should be some technique I can learn to prevent my twins from tearing up the house. Right?!?

Thursday, March 31, 2011


When I was single, I kept a pretty clean car. I didn't live out of it, like some I could mention. (Hi, Sue!) Once you have kids, though, a tidy vehicle is one of the very first victims sacrificed on the altar of busy parenthood. 

I took a look around inside my minivan today. Here's what I found:

  • a philosophy textbook
  • 2 quarts of motor oil
  • several rocks from our last trip to the beach
  • at least 5 dirty socks
  • 1 Hello Kitty! rain-boot
  • 4 dessicated apple slices
  • a bag of out-grown kid clothing destined for AmVets
  • 3 finger monsters
  • an over-due school library book on Valentine's Day
  • $2.75 in emergency parking change
What to you have in your car?

Monday, March 28, 2011

The first fifteen minutes

Disclaimer: Totally stealing this idea from Dooce.

For those of you still considering having children, allow me to tell you about my morning.

My wake-up call was the same pleasant one as usual, Miles bringing me a cup of coffee, giving me a kiss and telling me it was time to go on duty. As he headed into the shower, Claire climbed into the bed from the left side for a snuggle, Aeron burrowing under the covers from the right. Then she put her icy, cold feet on my butt. This eliminated the option of going back to sleep.

I plumped up the pillows, and began to drink my coffee while the girls nattered on about I don't know what. Their chatter kept me from understanding what the yelling was about downstairs. All I could really make out is Kayla seemed to be screeching at her brother. Not that I needed to wonder long; Kayla came racing upstairs, snarling about how Cameron isn't ready to leave for school and she gave him a 3-minute warning and she's tired of waiting around for him and being late, and Dad should not give him a ride to school and he needs to walk, etc...

"Leave him." I told her over the rim of mug. "Fine!" She flounced out the door and off to school.

Heaving my first sigh of the day, I shoo the girls off to the kitchen, with instructions to get some cereal, climbed out of my warm, comfortable bed and went to consult with my husband.

"I told Kayla to leave without him," I said to the shower curtain. "Shall I tell him to start walking?" I was then told Miles' story of how he couldn't get Cameron to get outta bed this morning. "I rubbed his back, pulled off all his covers, talked to him. He just lay there like a lump. After a while, I gave up. So, yeah. He needs to walk."

So I heaved my next sigh and went downstairs to be the bad guy. I found Cameron slowly putting on a jacket. "Dude. You need to get out the door and get to school," says I.  "Kayla couldn't wait for you anymore, so you'll need to walk."

If I had thwacked the child in the face with a dead fish, he couldn't have looked more surprised.


"Cameron. Kayla told you she was leaving in 3 minutes. You weren't ready to leave. So now you need to walk to school.".

"Jen! I didn't know what time it was!"

"Cameron. You need to leave for school now."

"I wanna talk to Dad!"

"Dad's in the shower. You need to leave for school now."

He glowered at me. I gazed calmly back at him. 

"Fine. Have a nice day." in a dark, flat tone of voice. The door slammed.

Back up stairs, I reported to Miles. We mutually pondered the mystery that is Cameron in the misty confines of the bathroom. Then came the banging on our bedroom door. I opened the door and saw Cameron, ready to kick the door again.

"Cameron. You need to go to school now."

"I wanna talk to DAD!"

"Dad's in the shower. You need to go to school."

"Jeeee-nnnn! I can't make it."

"I know. You'll be late. Go to school, Cameron!"

Well, you can see how it went. After a couple more rounds of call-and-response, some tears, and Miles telling the kid the same thing, Cam stomped off to the garage, got his bike and helmet, and went to school.  Note: the arguing and struggle took more time that it would have taken him to walk to school.

Update: No yelling this morning and Cam was ready to leave a 7:35am. Can I get a Hallelujah?!?

Monday, March 21, 2011

The duality of man

With all respect to any Freudians in the house, I believe man has two primary aspects to his nature. The "animal" part, that is driven by instinct and/or emotion and the "civilized" part, driven by the rules of society and culture. "Animal" Jen is the one who starts craving hearty soup the minute the thermometer dips below 50 degrees. "Civilized" Jen is the one who worries other moms on the school run think she's a frumped-out slob.

This past week, I have had been able to observe first hand the power of "Animal" man. I am referring, of course, to the beginning of Daylight Savings Time, when all the suburbanites have sunlight after work.

I am amazed by the behavioral changes that an extra hour of daylight brings to the table. For example, each and every evening last week, promptly at 5:30pm, the smell of lighter fluid would begin to waft over our cul-de-sac. Neighbor Rodney was firing up the BBQ for dinner. Another wonderment; we met a woman and her two children out walking in the neighborhood last Thursday. We have lived a block away from one another for almost six years! Yet, this was the first time we had ever spoken. Her youngest is now 4, an age where you can take the little darling outside and be reasonably confident you can keep 'em from running into the street. So, as it was a beautiful sunny day, and there was some daylight before dinner, they went for a walk. And lo! Another family, with children the same age! All the kids played together, and us adults sat on the comfy furniture inside, watching the kiddoes through the open windows and had a glass of wine.

Lately, the warmth and the sunlight beckon me outdoors. I have an urge to play in the dirt, planting veggies, tidying up my rose garden, setting up my outdoor living room. I can't wait to be able to have dinner on the deck, to sit outside and watch the hummingbirds and enjoy the sights and sounds of nature. I thrill to every flower bud on the fruit trees. I fantasize about warm, homegrown tomatoes.

What primitive instinct is at work here? Is it just that we are all starved for some Vitamin D? Or is there some atavistic urge that drives us outside into the evening sunlight? Or is it the promise of warm days to come, when fresh food is abundant, and we can relax, just a little from the struggle, such as it is, to survive?

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

I am never going to make it

There is no way I'm not going have a nervous breakdown before Claire & Aeron are 18. No chance whatsoever.

Today's example: Having just arrived home from the grocery store, I sent the girls upstairs to change out of their Uggs and into shoes & socks for school. I was unpacking groceries when I heard sudden, shrill, terror-stricken screaming from Claire. I stampede upstairs thinking the child is either being torn apart by rabid dingos, or she's fallen and has multiple compound fractures.

"Claire!" I yell frantically as I'm tearing up the stairs. "Claire, what's wrong?!?"

I dash into the family room, and she's standing there, red-faced, still squealing. She looks fine. No blood, no limbs bent in unnatural angles, fine!

"Claire! What?!?"

"My nose is bleeding!"

Two drops! She bumped her nose and couple of drops of blood fell! Oh, and they have nose bleeds all the time! 

I'm not gonna make it.

Monday, February 28, 2011

My 2 cents. Because I can.

We watched the Oscars last night at my in-laws' house. Miles & I had planned to make it an early evening, but then we just got sucked in by the tube. I gotta say, I really enjoyed it.

A few thoughts, in no particular order:

  • Clearly, Anne Hathaway was having a marvelous time, and who could blame her? She got to wear 8 fabulous dresses and schmooze with all them famous folks. Girl's got great pipes, too; I didn't know that.
  • Doesn't Scarlett Johansson own a comb? Her dress was lovely, her makeup tasteful, but her hair was a gawd-awful mess. ("Honey. That's not a "hair-do; that's a hair-don't"!) Could she honestly have thought that looked pretty?
  • Russell Brand should eat some high-calorie meals and wash his hair, the scary-looking grease ball.
  • Ain't Colin Firth classy? I'm sure Her Majesty will let him come home. 
  • Did Sandra Bullock look sad, or was it just me? She had the great red "I Will Survive" dress, but her beautifully done face looked just a bit sorrowful. 
  • Can we please never, ever see James Franco in drag again? Please? 'Cause that was more painful than listening to Vogon poetry. Ditto regarding Gweneth Paltrow's singing. 
  • Dame Helen Mirren looked positively lovely. As usual. Ditto Halle Berry, Reese Witherspoon and Jennifer Hudson.
  • Did anyone know Christian Bale was a Brit? And who glued the dead squirrel to his chin? 
  • Keith Urban is an Aussie? Huh. I heard he was a country singer and just assumed he was from Texas.
  •  I read an article this morning about how it was too early to tell if Melissa Leo's F-bomb during her acceptance speech would hurt her career. Gimme a break. The lady was excited, she had just won an Oscar, fer christssakes.  The broadcast wonks bleeped it out for TV, so what's the problem? I'm pretty sure that every single person in the Kodak Theater has heard the word before. In fact, I'd bet every single person in the Kodak Theater has used the word before. Even that sweet young thing from "True Grit" in the pretty pink dress. 
  • Speaking of things that should have been bleeped; didya see the Best MakeUp award?!? Of course, a clip of the film "The Wolfman" was screened and obviously, those guys seriously deserved that award. The very realistic, incredibly gross, and exceedingly frightening effects scared the snot out of my little girls, who ran screaming from the room. 
OK. I think I got all the snark outta my system. 

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Only the best for my Clairezie

The scene: A little girl, freshly washed and in her jammies, settles down in her parent's bed to read books before bedtime.

Claire choses a book from Mama's collection, "The Ship of Dreams". (Charming story, gorgeous illustrations) She snuggles into her pillow, opens the book, but then quickly looks at the front cover.

"It didn't win the Calldecott Medal." she comments casually. "That's OK. I'll still read it."

Good thing she's got standards.

Morning Exchange

Me: "I dreamed that Jan Brewer's opponent for re-election for governor of Arizona was the Prince of Wales."

Him: "Gonna be a tight race."

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Attack of the Ignorant Bimbos

OK, first, some disclosure: I think the Tea Party folks are off their rockers. Oh, and my contempt for Sarah Palin is reinforced every time she opens her uninformed mouth. And then, would you look at that! Sarah is being upstaged by a elected cutie just as birdbrained as Ms. Palin herself.

This morning, right after my first slurp of coffee, I read this article in the Wall Street Journal. Rep. Michele Bachmann, (R., Minn.) came out against a statement by the First Lady which encouraged mothers to breastfeed, as this practice can reduce the incident of obesity later in life.  Rep. Bachmann complained that encouragement by the government like this will surely give rise to a "nanny state".  (Mrs Obama's comments were made in the context of her Let's Move initiative.)  Ms. Palin, never one to miss an opportunity to display her shallowness, promptly chimed in with a crack about the high price of milk.  Yeah, that's Michelle Obama's doing, right there.....

Look, I'm not one of those New Millennium, back-to-what's-natural, nutty-crunchy California mothers who insist on organic foods and "breast is best!" Yes, breastfeeding has some distinct advantages. To feed your infant, just whip out a breast; you always have them with you! No mixing, no stirring, no paying for pricey formula! Breastfeeding also conveys immunities from mother to child. It's a perfect food, designed by Mother Nature specifically for a human infant. But! (and this is a big but) some women aren't able to breastfeed. Like me.

My twins were born 6 weeks early, by C-section. I was in a hospital bed, and my babies were in the NICU. The day after, I was visited by a lactation advisor, given a breast pump and some instruction, then advised to get crackin'. I followed orders and got busy with my breast pump. I had photos of my girls taped to the side rails of my bed, provided by one of the saintly maternity nurses, on the theory it would assist in the let-down reflex. Didn't help.

I managed to produce some colostrum and a very small amount of milk, all of which were given to the babies. Then, I was sent home, and my girls stayed in the NICU. I saw a lactation specialist, who gently encouraged me and even organized a group of her clients who were mothers to multiples, all of whom with having difficulties breastfeeding.

After my babies came home, I would bottle feed them, change 'em and then get them back to sleep, which took about a hour and a half.  Next I would get with the breast pump for another 45 minutes to an hour, with very little in the way of results. Which gave me about a half an hour to rest before the girls needed feeding again. All while recovering from major surgery and awash in hormones and feelings of abject failure.

After 3 weeks of this routine, my lactation specialist took me by the hand and told me that I hadn't failed, any breast milk is better than no breast milk. She also told me she was looking at a woman who was exhausted and not taking care of her own urgent need to rest and heal. This lovely lady told me formula was just fine. After all, we all were fed formula, and today's formulas were much better than those of generations past.

What a relief that was! It didn't alleviate all the guilt, but I was able to get past it and get little more sleep. Still, I would have much preferred to breastfeed my girls. I felt guilty that I was secretly relieved that, as I wasn't breastfeeding, anyone could feed a baby, any time. The pressure had been enormous.

All that said, for Rep. Bachmann and Ms. Palin to criticize the First Lady for encouraging healthy behavior, for political reasons, is ludicrous. That's not to say we should buy into the dogma of the breastfeeding nazis that only breast milk is appropriate food for an infant. But if you can breast feed, you probably should breast feed. Do your best to give your child a good start for a healthy life.

And ignore uninformed and self-serving politicians who try to convince you otherwise.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Break like the Wind

One of the hardest things about being a parent is not laughing at behaviors that are undesirable. Like farting.

On the face of it, farting is NOT funny. But, honestly, sometimes, it so is. Just last night I was attempting to do a dramatic recitation of Dooce, and could not finish, due to hysterical laughter and tears running down my face. (In my opinion, no one, but no one, writes about personal humiliation like Heather Armstrong. But I digress...)

But you aren't supposed to laugh when your kid, say, sitting at the candlelit dinner table of friends on New Year's Eve, just as everyone joins hands to say grace, starts emitting an emphatic, rapid-fire fusillade of  toots from her tiny backside.

In the shocked silence that followed, every adult clamped their mouth shut, doing their darnedest to keep from bursting into uncontrolled laughter. I was beyond speech, but Miles, bless him, was able to hold it together and admonish the child.

"Aeron, my goodness! What a rude noise!  What do you say?!?"

"'Excuse me, " said the offender, smirkingly.

"That's not OK!" her father said, sternly.

 Sheepishly, this time. "Sorry, Daddy."

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

On a go-forward basis

The media and politicians from across the spectrum have worked themselves into a froth over "violent imagery and rhetoric" in the wake of the shootings in Tuscon on Saturday. "Is violent speech a factor?" and "It's not our fault; the guy is nuts", etc. as the finger pointing and blame games continue.

Look, people. I don't give a damn what motivated the shooter. I don't want to hear any more hateful, disrespectful, or violent rhetoric. From anyone. Period.

Anyone who can't discuss their opinions or differences with some rational calm and a modicum of respect should not be listened to. Or given any air time or inches in print. No credence or value can be placed on the opinions of a person who cannot express them without resorting to hateful or violent speech. I think we can be justified in demanding a higher level of respect, and honestly, professionalism in our public servants and the Fourth Estate.

If they want us to listen, that is.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Not the America I know

Today, a 22 year old man shot Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and about 17 other people as she met with her constituents in Tuscon. 6 people are dead, including a 9-year-old girl and a federal judge.

Is this really what we've come to? We shoot the people who don't agree with us?!?

I have never heard of Congresswoman Giffords before today. From what I can tell, she's a moderate Democrat who just won a hard-fought re-election campaign against a Tea Party candidate. She is the only member of Congress who is married to an active member of the U.S. military.

I remember being taught in government class how the peaceful, orderly transfer of power in the United States of America after an election was amazing in the 18th and early 19th century. You didn't barricade yourself in the White House, refusing to yield power. You didn't send an army after your opponent. You lost the election, you packed up your shit and went home. You wrote your memoirs, hit the lecture circuit, set up a library. That's the way we do things in America.

The media has been hotly debating the role of hateful, violent rhetoric from the folks on the political Right.  (Disclaimer: I am a bleeding-heart liberal Democrat) Sarah Palin had Ms. Giffords congressional district "in the cross-hairs". Giffords office was vandalized after the health care vote in March. Giffords Tea Party opponent apparently had invited people at a rally to shoot an automatic weapon. The ugly phrase, "don't retreat, reload!" has been heard.

It seems to me the shooting of a Congresswoman, and the murder of a little girl, amply demonstrates this atmosphere of violent speech against political opponents has gone way too far. That's not the way we do things in America.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Blind Date

During our visit to the Pastors Dodge for New Year's Eve, I met with Elizabeth the Amazing, my potential cooking student. People were all freakin' out that I invited a complete stranger to my house, where my children live, just because I freaked out that she couldn't cook. Honestly, I couldn't see what the big deal was. But I try to respect the opinions of my nearest and dearest, so I emailed Elizabeth about hooking up.

We made plans to meet for lunch on New Year's Eve in Brentwood. As I arrived at the Tavern, there was one, tiny lady with glossy dark hair near the hostess desk. I figured this must be my date. She was dressed beautifully, in black and grey, wearing a vintage-looking rhinestone collar I'd have killed for in my musical theater days. I was dressed in what I like to call "wine country chic". (Incidentally, "wine country chic" looks a lot like "housewife frump")  I wore denim trousers, a casual sweater and my cowboy boots. With pearl earrings, to provide the "chic".

We said our smiling hellos, and I promptly hugged her. I felt very tall.

We sat at our corner booth for two and a half hours, yapping away. It probably took us at least 45 minutes just to order, because we were so busy talking. My classiest moment came when taking my first bite into my "Grand Fromage" sandwich (grilled asiago and prosciutto - yum!) Naturally, a large slice of the proscuitto slid out and dangled from my teeth onto my chin. Deciding that spitting it out onto the plate would be tacky, I used several fingers to stuff it into my already full mouth. Yep, that's me; elegant and posh in every way. (If this had been an actual first date, I'm quite certain there wouldn't have been a second....) Elizabeth graciously declined to notice, bless her.

After a couple of hours, Miles appeared. Apparently, he'd been trying to contact me and concluded, correctly, that I was ignoring him. He walked into the restaurant, said hello, and told me it was time to go, Johan was parked in the red zone. I reluctantly tore myself away. Elizabeth walked out to meet the little girls and Johan and as we said our goodbyes, I hugged her again.

Having met Elizabeth, I feel pretty confident about my safety and that of my children when she comes to get her cooking lesson. For one thing, I've got about 5 inches, 70 pounds and 15 years on her. Pretty sure I could her take if it came to fisticuffs.

Christmas recap

We did things a little different this year.

We relaxed.

As a family, we agreed to cut back this year, to not indulge in a frenzy of consumerism. Still, nine people plus just a couple of gift each from each person still makes for a heap of packages under the tree.

Miles and I did not stay up 'til all hours on Christmas Eve wrapping gifts. We were in bed (with a glass of champagne!) by 11pm. And since Cameron was at his mom's house*, we got to sleep in until 8am.

We leisurely opened some gifts, then packed up our show and headed to SLO.

By the late afternoon, we had all run out of gas. Even the dog.

*Cameron was up at 4am, trying to convince his mom it was time to open gifts.