Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Happy New Year

I know it is New Year's Eve and I should be preparing resolutions...

But I've been busy. Doing what? I don't know. But it's been busy.

I'm mulling over my resolution list and I'll get back to you...

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Sometimes you get it right

Christmas did come and it was good. We had a great time Christmas Eve at Marna's and Pa's house. The boys were spoiled rotten and the grandparents loved the numerous framed photo collages of our children that they received as gifts. They are good sports that way.

The best part may have been making my mother cry (in a good way. not the usual way...). We did it by accident.

It started with one brother who did not get our mother a gift so he called another brother to bail him out. The second brother called his sister (me) to complain about it... and that's when I remembered that I did the purchasing for Christmas last year for Brother No. 1. And I think I didn't buy the right thing so I tell Brother No. 2 what I think I should have bought.

He thinks it's  a great idea and heads to the mall. Through multiple phone conversations, phone photos and internet searches, we manage to find a cross necklace much like the one my mom had years ago that she lost (and was heartbroken over). We all pitched in and a great present was purchased -- on Christmas Eve even.

Our mom opened it and started to cry, "It's my cross..."

That's when we all started blubbering. Not a dry eye in the house, as they say...

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Merry Christmas

We've just spent the last 2 hours wrapping furiously. Santa has a procrastination issue. He's in therapy for that.

We wrapped the gifts from us. We wrapped the gifts from the dogs. We wrapped gifts to the dogs (I apologize to the cat people I mocked previously). We wrapped gifts from Santa (in special paper with special bows and special tags. We are thorough.)

While I have several nasty paper cuts and there was an incident with the new-fangled paper cutter, I'm giddy. Santa came tonight and Christmas comes tomorrow!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Bad boys

So I'm thinking up chores for the kids. That's what happens when you don't behave at Pa's house.

My Dad uses a walker so he can't really catch them. We have to rely on respect and fear.

They need to respect their Pa, and they need to FEAR what will happen if they don't. We aren't the beating types so we find chores... lots of chores....

Vacuuming the stairs is always a good chore. I hate doing it and so do they... it's a win-win. Folding laundry is nice, especially towels and socks. They can't really mess those up. 

Currently, they are changing the sheets on their beds and vacuuming upstairs. After they struggle trying to get that fitted sheet on and I've had my tea, I might help them out.

The bathrooms could use a wipe down too... or maybe the front walk needs a sweep... darn it, I already did the dishes...

Somewhere in the back of my mind I think they will appreciate the work Mom does every day, but the rest of my brain knows better.

Stop the kissing

Jack: "Mom, what's mistletoe?"

Me: "It's a plant. At Christmas time you hang some and if you are caught under the mistletoe, you get a kiss."

I attempt to kiss him, but he artfully dodges it.

Jack: "I've got to warn Neil."

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Christmas is coming ...

Good Morning! 5 days and counting till Christmas.... I woke up yesterday with a cold, and then almost no voice this morning after last night's football game. Yahoo. This is going well.

Have I done any Christmas shopping? A little. When did I think I would finish? 

Have I made Christmas cookies? A few, but they have been eaten.

Have I cleaned up the house? Clearly not.

Have I made those handmade ornaments? Yeah. Not gonna happen.

Have I wrapped anything? Mailed Christmas cards? Shopped for Christmas dinner? Taken the kids to look at lights? Visited Santa?

Have I knitted myself a new scarf? Seriously, I just made that up. But I'm cranky and beating myself up.

I'm going to forage my way through the kitchen, tossing debris and cleaning up what's been piled up then I'm gonna mess it up again with freshly baked goods. Then I'll probably collapse on the couch and I will be exactly where I started (but I'll have cookies so that's a step forward).

Friday, December 19, 2008

Shout out for Comet

Neil loves Comet. You know, the reindeer.

He cheers when he hears Comet's name at the beginning of the song "Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer."

Of course by the end of that song, he's complaining that Rudolph gets all the credit. Why isn't there a Comet song? Where's Comet's song? He does a good job too.

I can't tell you how many times I have had to listen to Neil's version of Comet the Red Nosed Reindeer...

Thursday, December 18, 2008


Neil: "Hey Mom! I've got a joke for you."

Me: "OK."

Neil: "Why did the chicken cross the road?"

Me: "I don't know. Why?"

Neil: "To get to the other slide."

He then dissolves into laughter... "the other slide. He likes that one better. Don't you get it Mom?"

Oh, I get it. Wait till you're old enough to get it, my man.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

True tales of trees past

Oh, Christmas tree how I love you. How I’m willing to torture family members to get you...
This year was no different (This post is for you Ken)...

We finally made it to the lot on Sunday. I was feeling antsy. I need a tree. I need a good tree, a perfectly shaped tree, one that is about 7 feet 6 inches tall and about 5 to 6 feet wide at the bottom. I am specific in my tree needs. This is the maximum amount of Christmas tree I can fit into our living room. We’ve lived here almost 14 years and hard experience has brought me to this knowledge (and my husband tries desperately to keep me in line).

I have purchased a 14 footer and stuck it in the entrance way of the house -- the only place with a high enough ceiling once Dean removed the hanging light-- but the ornaments blow off every time you open the front door. And it wasn’t easy having to go through the kitchen every time you wanted to go to the living room. And when you sat on the couch you could only see just over half of the tree.

My mother refuses to shop for a tree with me. My brothers mock it. My friends tell stories of times they have been caught up in it.

The aforementioned Ken used to keep himself and his truck available when he knew we were tree shopping. It was just easier that way when he had to come rescue us and our tree. Ken has moved to Colorado so it takes a little more commitment on his part.

I have been offered 20 bucks and a tree to leave a tree lot. I know a good deal. I took it. That tree was a beautiful Scottish pine.

We’ve had Nordmam pines, Fraser firs, Grand firs, Noble firs, Monterey pines and the dependable Douglas fir.

There was the year I bought three trees. Dean returned the first one (yes, they will give you a refund). The second we gave to a friend. It was a beautifully shaped tree but too skinny. I thought I could live with it, but I couldn’t. I was miserable. When our friend Art told me he trimmed three inches from the top, I nearly cried. I’m still a little upset.

The year I was offered cash to leave a tree lot was the first year Dean (and Ken) went with me to get a tree. Poor man. He had no idea what he was getting into.

The tree was for my family’s home. I was just home from Prague. We got the cash and the tree and headed home. This was before they put the stand on the tree for you so my mom handed Dean the stand and wished him luck. She retreated to the kitchen.

My lazy brothers stood in the kitchen with my mother laughing. They knew what Dean must have just been through at the lot (looking at tree after tree after tree after tree in search of the perfect one). Being just a boyfriend, Dean was low man on the totem pole and my brothers were enjoying the torture.

When Dean asked for something to whittle the tree trunk down a little to fit it into the tree stand, my mother handed him a steak knife.

He gallantly worked at it for an hour or so before he got the tree in the stand and upright.

Meanwhile Ken had planted himself on the couch and my father was giving him beers. Lots of beers. Pretty soon my dad and Ken were laughing like old buddies, slapping each other on the back, and my dad had nicknamed Ken “Fast Kenny.” He promised him his own engraved mug and a permanent spot on the couch.

My dad kept saying,”Joi, I really like Fast Kenny. You should go out with him.”

Thanks Dad, but I think my boyfriend who is sitting on the floor whittling our Christmas tree with a steak knife might object.

Why did Dean not run away?

Our first Christmas tree as a married couple written up in the local paper.

We went to the local cut-down-your-tree lot. We wandered around this huge field of trees. It was like heaven. Tree after tree after tree available for inspection. I asked friends to stand in front of potential trees until I found the perfect one.

It was a beauty. Only thing was we didn’t really think about the size. We were young and in love. We had just gotten married and returned from a honeymoon in Italy. We weren’t seeing anything straight.

We cut down that tree and we lugged it to the booth to pay. And then when we went to put it on the car ...

We drove a Civic. We tossed that tree up there and that’s when we got an inkling of what was to come: the tree was longer than the car. It hung off the front. It hung off the back.

Hmmmm. Did this stop us? No. The Civic is a compact. How long could it really be? 9 feet?

We lugged the tree up a flight of stairs to our condo (thank you again Ken). We put it in a stand. It almost touched our 14 foot ceiling. Almost touched, no room for a star, but it made it into the house. Yahoo!

Then we started to cut the netting off...

Whoooooooooosh! The netting tore and the tree limbs sprang out. Tim swears a squirrel ran out.

The tree reached from one end of the 8 -foot sliding door to the other end. It was wall-to-wall tree in the living room. It was AWESOME.

And then it fell over.

Thank God there were no small children or animals around. They would have been crushed.

We tried another stand and another stand. Eventually, we nailed a stand to a giant piece of plywood and anchored the tree to the walls to keep it upright.

We decorated only the front of the tree. We couldn’t get around it, and truthfully, we couldn’t afford any more ornaments.

To get the ornaments at the top of the tree, Dean had to get on Ken’s shoulders. Apparently, a ladder wasn’t one of the wedding gifts.

Which brings me to this year: The boys really wanted to cut down their tree. So we carefully picked a tree, noting its height and width (I must stay it is almost exactly 7 foot 6 inches by 5 feet). Weren’t we smart?

Not so much. My husband who had surgery just a month ago starts sawing and sawing and sawing...

The kids and I try to help, but we can’t even get the saw to budge. Dean realizes he doesn’t want to include a trip to the ER with saw wounds so he takes over again.

He’s sawing and sawing. Are we sure the blade is even remotely sharp?

It’s dark by the time we decide to tackle the tree. Yes, tackle the tree.

Dean lined up and knocked it flat. Then Neil jumped on it. I had heart palpitations. Not because I thought they would get hurt, I just didn’t want the tree damaged.

We got it home without incident. Even got it standing in the living room with lights and ornaments and ribbon.

The tree is perfect. It smells fabulous. And the house feels like Christmas.

Ah, Southern California

It was freezing this morning! And I don't mean California "freezing" (you know, when the temperature hits 60 degrees).

I mean FREEZING -- as in we couldn't open the van doors because they were frozen shut (thank you association sprinklers that I have no control over and I'm bitter about it). FREEZING -- as in the hose was a block of ice. FREEZING -- as in the neighbor's car wouldn't start.

FREEZING -- as in I could barely get a patch of the front windshield thawed out enough to see so I rolled down the driver's side window (no small feat because that was frozen too), stuck my head out and drove the kids, the neighbor and her son to school. I think I scared the neighbor. She seemed VERY relieved to see the van thawed out some after we walked the kids in to class and came back.

I'm drinking hot coffee and wishing I had made sugar cookies yesterday. I'm pretty sure the neighbor is having something in her coffee to calm her nerves.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Oh Tannenbaum

We are finally getting a tree today! I hope anyway. This has been a slow-getting-started Christmas. Usually the house is completely decorated. The tree is up and shining beautifully, as well as taking up half the available space in the living room.

There's Christmas play practice today and a CIF championship football game to attend in San Jan Capistrano (Go Tartans!), but I think in between is tree-getting time... big, fat, green, Christmasy tree getting time.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Working it

Want to know what kind of a day I have had? Bet you can tell from what I have allowed my children to eat today. Let's use Neil as an example:

Neil started the day eating the leftover frosting (maybe two teaspoonfuls -- I'm sober enough to realize I should justify myself ever so slightly). Then he moved on to scrambled eggs and bacon.

We ended today with plain pasta and garlic bread made from leftover hot dog rolls (that's the kind of cooking I learned from my mother. But you should try it. It's pretty awesome, especially when it's the only bread available.).

I have worked in Neil's class, manned the school book fair, taken Neil to a birthday party at a bounce house, made dinner, practiced a speech with a kindergardener, created a tri-fold brochure, helped my father plan Christmas Eve dinner, thrown in a load of laundry, washed days worth of dishes ...

I'm a do-er. A tired do-er...

Wednesday, December 03, 2008


Really, really it's been 14 years since the husband and I said "I do." Well, we still do. 

It'll be an exciting dinner of take out with the kids. I'm picking a kissing movie to watch. Neil is protesting, but I refuse to watch "Clone Wars" again and it's an absolute NO to "Elf" for the third time this week. It's sad when "The Princess Bride" is your best option. As you wish...

We are setting the table, lighting candles and the boys will be mortified.

Neil has already asked me twice if I "HAVE" to kiss Daddy. "Couldn't you just skip it?"

Tuesday, December 02, 2008


I found the person who will get the cat card... her license plate says "Cat Lady" and she lives on my street...

Monday, December 01, 2008

I'm allergic to cats

Now, I know people have serious relationships with their animals (I will repeat: "It's OK to love your animal, but it is not OK to LOVE your animal.). But I think the situation might have gone too far ...

I was in Hallmark this afternoon looking for a group gift card. It's amazing how many niches there are in the card market. You can get a very specific card for your dentist, for your "service provider," your child care provider, and just about any other contributor to your life. I'm not sure why your average holiday card wouldn't work for your dentist, but maybe you are closer to your dentist than I am to mine.

Then I saw it... the ultimate niche card ... the card you could buy for your cat. Yes, your cat. No dog one. Plenty of cards FROM the dog or the cat (I had no idea they were big card givers). But this one was for the cat. I would have assumed the person who needs a card for their cat would have made one. From scratch. With photos of you together. And dipped in cat nip.

Dear person who needs a Christmas card to give to their cat:

This is not healthy. Either the cat is holding you hostage to its demands or you need more friends... friends who are not felines. Friends who would tell you not to buy your cat a card. The cat can't read. And you reading your card to your cat, that's weird...

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Neil is 6!

Neil's birthday party was today. It was a spectacular spectacle of children with light sabers chasing and whacking each other -- a great success!

Dear Neil,

You rock! You are 6 years old and so much fun. You sing, dance and air guitar your way through life.  Whatever comes your way, you have to touch it, lick it, roll in it... You have to experience everything as fully as you can. It's going to be a long, rich life for you my son.

The night before you turned 6, you reminded me that 6-year-old boys no longer have ham (think fat baby thighs. that's where the ham hides.). So just before you went to sleep, I had to sneak upstairs for a ham attack. You giggled and giggled and giggled. I hope I remember the sound of your laughter for ever. It's a sound that fills your heart.

You make faces like your Daddy. You stand like him too. When I look at Daddy's childhood photos, it's your face I see. Grandma Jane must catch her breath when she sees photos of you. I'm sure it's like looking at your Dad.

You are a walking cliche machine ("Now, that's the way I like it!" "Oh, yeah, baby!" "Bring it on!"). 

You will play basketball on a real team for the first time in January. You are very excited. I'm not sure if you are excited about basketball or excited about being like Jack. Probably a bit of both.

You are not excited about reading or about tying your shoes. Both things I think you should be excited about. But you are excited about Star Wars: The Clone Wars. And you are excited about using the computer and about playing baseball with Jack. You love to cook. You and Jack watch Iron Chef America and can name all the Iron Chefs. We keep toying with the idea that we will have our own Iron Chef competition. Mom loves it that you and Jack WANT Mom on your team. It may be the only competition where Mom is picked first.

We got your first report card a couple weeks ago. You are a very good student. When your teacher, Mrs. Evans, told you to write very neatly because it was for your report card, your printing was better than Daddy's! You work hard at school and are kind to others. I've seen you and I'm very proud.

You are a great snuggler, Neil. You still want to curl up on the couch under a blanket (the red fleece one). And even if you don't have ham anymore, you do have slightly chubby cheeks and just a touch of the softness of a little guy still.

You don't like it when you get embarrassed. You still hide behind Mom. You don't like it when you don't know something. You might appear easy going, but I suspect there's quite a perfectionist in there.

Your legs are long and scarred with bumps, bruises and marks from all your adventures. The perfect way to be a 6-year-old boy!


*That's another thing about you Neil. You are stubborn and social conventions do not concern you. You don't spell MOM that way. You write it OMO and then you say, "That's the way I do it." I like your confidence kid.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

So close

So close! I've almost blogged every day for a month. And I almost missed it today... but here I am with little to say.

Except that we watched Spike TV (whatever channel number that is, but a Pierce Brosnan Bond movie was on it) and can you guess the demographic from the ads? World of Warcraft and male enhancement pills. Literally, those were the only ads, over and over and over.

And did you know there is a male enhancement soda? You can get two free when you sign up for one of the pills.

Good night...

Friday, November 28, 2008

Post mortem

So we're in recovery mode from Thanksgiving. The dinner itself turned out well considering that my mother and father managed to squash two major childhood beliefs in the first 15 minutes we were there.

Sweet Neil was showing Marna and Pa the space in his mouth where his tooth used to be. His first tooth and first experience with the tooth fairy -- he was quite excited.

That's when my mom launched into a story about my youngest brother (he's almost 14 years younger than I am)...

"Remember when you kids didn't think I would remember to put money under Brian's pillow when he lost his first tooth?"

I stared at her in stunned silence. My boys looked at me confused. I had to take action.

"You mean when you FORGOT that the tooth fairy would be coming and you thought you should do it?!" I said as I tried to casually kick her back into the present.

"What? No. Remember when you guys put money under Brian's pillow...."

"Mom. You MEAN when you were ADDING to what the tooth fairy brings," I said kicking her harder.

She stared at me. "OH. OH."

There's a moment of silence. I briefly think we are in the clear.

And then she says, "You kids never believed in the tooth fairy or Santa. Why should you?"

That's when my dad starts in on Santa. "There was no Santa when I was a kid. You got a flannel shirt and they told you to like it!"

Sweet Mercy. Are you kidding me?! 

One of the dogs ran outside and I sent the kids after him. "Stay out there."

Now, I didn't believe in the tooth fairy or in Santa. That was my parents' choice. It was not a tradition they were interested in or had time for, I suppose. In fact, my mother is quite proud of how I would tell all the neighbor kids how stupid they were for believing and how I would "set them straight." I'm sure I was very popular with kids and parents.

But my husband believed, and it was important to him that our children believe or at least have the chance to believe in magic and mystery and childhood things.

I have to say that one of my lifetime favorite moments was when Jack was 2 and came down the stairs on Christmas morning. He didn't see the tree or the mounds of gifts for him around it. All he saw was an empty plate and glass where the night before he had left cookies and milk for Santa. Jack couldn't contain himself. The joy was contagious. Santa had been there! It didn't matter what he had brought. It mattered that by magic he had come.

I tried gently to remind my mother and father that our children believe in Santa and the tooth fairy and that we expect them not to dispel these myths. Though it was a bit like closing the barn door after the horse was already loose.

"Why should they believe in Santa?!" my mother starts in again. "You kids never believed. Why should they?"

I can see my husband about to lose it. "Why shouldn't they?!" he asks my mother.

I think I'm thankful that my dad interrupts and starts in on "kids these days." He covers spoiled kids, loser kids, too many self-esteem movements and the drugs kids are on these days...

Forty-five minutes later my dad is still going, but we are coming full circle. The kids are outside playing. My parents have stopped talking about Santa and the tooth fairy. And I feel like I've been run over by a bus.

The kids haven't asked about the tooth fairy or Santa. We haven't brought it up. But I'm sure it's coming.

I don't have any idea what to do when it does...

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Turkey Day Part II

I am not in a turkey-induced coma, but I am enjoying some well-deserved wine.
And I deserve it because Thanksgiving dinner STARTED with my mother telling my children that there is no tooth fairy and there is no Santa... It only got better from there...

Happy Thanksgiving

It's turkey day. The main action is happening at my parents' house. I'm making focaccia to add to the feast. The house smells soooo good. Warm and bready.

I'll be back later. This is just in case I fall into a turkey-induced coma and never return... It could happen.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Ladies room hazards

My friend Julie would really like Michelle Pfeiffer to know that it was not her pee on the toilet seat at Nordstrom's last night.

Two friends and I ended up at The Grove last night. We dashed into Nordstrom's for a little potty break (and a serious look at purses that are worth more than the rent on a large condo in Valencia).

We waited in line and poor Julie got the stall formerly occupied by a messy person so she did what any of us would do when you got to go and the bathroom has a long line. She performed a carefully balanced squat and took care of business.

But as she was leaving who should need to go but Michelle Pfeiffer.

"Great. Now Michelle Pfeiffer thinks I pee on the seat..."

It was just that kind of night people.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

I got to get out more

AHHHHH. Almost didn't make it! But here I am... It's been an interesting evening. I'm planning a post on how this stay-at-home mom needs to get out more. It's not a good sign when you have no idea where your make up is; if you have black flats anywhere; and your kids have no idea what nylons are... stay tuned.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Fun with kids

Neil is having trouble blending sounds as he tries to read. He's been stuck here for quite some time. I can't tell if he won't slow down and make time to sound out a word, or if it truly is a stumbling block.

The kid can memorize words like you wouldn't believe. He can find The Backyardigans on the TiVo list. He can read the grocery list (but only the items he likes to eat). He can pick words out of something I'm reading.

But phonics? Not quite clicking.

So we've been playing word games. Tonight we were taking a letter combo and changing the first letter to make a new word (you know, add a c to "up" and it becomes cup).

We started with "an": can, fan, pan, man, tan, etc.

Then we moved on to "at": sat, bat, rat, cat, etc.

Jack suggested "am." So we started with: Sam, Pam, ram ...

"Dam!" Neil yelled out and then he quickly covered his mouth.

"Neil said a bad word!" yells his big brother. It's anarchy.

"It's not a bad word," explains Dad. "Think of a dam that beavers build."

"Yeah," acknowledges Jack. "Not like 'Damn kids.' "  

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Wedding bells

Just got back from a young friend's wedding shower. It was a joyous, fun event. The bride was cute and delighted by every gift. Every pan, serving dish, place setting was graciously welcomed. Even a butter dish deserved great attention. It was sweet and reminded me how it felt to be starting out, how it felt to be setting up a home, a marriage and a future family.

Reminded me how a set of bowls or dishes could make you feel like you were really starting out together building something.

There are many things in our home that we received as shower and wedding gifts. I cook almost daily in a pan that my dad's friend gave us. I frequently use the Pyrex bowls that a co-worker gave us. The flatware in the drawer is from another of my dad's friends. The dish I make cheeseburger pie in for my husband is from our friend Mary G. The candlesticks, the fancy serving platters, the quilt we sleep under (thank you Grandma Pederson) were all gifts.

There are lots more. As I reach for one to use in our daily life it still brings a little thought of the person who was generous enough to give it to us, to help us make a home, a marriage and a family. Almost 14 years later, thank you still.

I remember when we were young and EVERYONE was getting married. Or at least it seemed that way. 

One year, Dean and I attended 9 weddings. I think we were in three wedding parties. That's a lot of bridesmaid dresses, shower gifts, tux rentals, wedding gifts and various functions to attend. We were on the wedding social circuit.

Now that we are old and cranky, not so many weddings. Now we are just grateful when people stay married. Grateful that we are still married.

Saturday, November 22, 2008


Those little LEGO figures that come with some LEGO sets...

You know the ones the dogs keep chewing up....

Turns out they can be expensive to replace ....

Lombardi Ranch

I know it is well past Halloween, but this is one of my favorites. We've been going to Lombardi Ranch since 1979. My poor brother Brian is now 28, almost 29, and we drag him most every year. It's tradition.

I have pictures like this of Brian and now of my kids.

Friday, November 21, 2008

A Tribute

A friend of mine's aunt died today and I'm honored to say I cried.

Aunt Trudy was an amazing woman. I'm glad to have known her. Many years in the diplomatic services and a strong spirit gave Aunt Trudy envy-inducing stories. She told stories of places and times read about but not seen by most of my generation (or the previous one).

I had the pleasure of meeting Aunt Trudy for the first time before my friend's wedding. I was chastised for showing up at the motel without any wine. I was just supposed to pick Aunt Trudy and Aunt Rose up. I thought I was picking up elderly aunts.

Well, they may have been elderly (only very, very slightly and I imagine Aunt Trudy was only very slightly elderly until she died), but they had spirit. A lot of spirit. I was young (26 or 27) but not as young as Aunt Trudy.

I was not long back from Prague and missing it terribly when I met her. Aunt Trudy had been in Prague during the famous Prague Spring of 1968. She would describe places, buildings and even scaffolding that she remembered. I had been there in 1991 and nothing had changed. I loved her instantly for the way she described a place that I cherish.

She had an appreciation for the world and its offerings that comes from being well-travelled.

I remember being in her hotel room after the wedding. We were celebrating and celebrating. Taking our time and truly honoring the wedding of Kristie and Tim. Aunt Trudy regaled us with stories of contraband liquor in Kuwaiti hotels, inappropriate escapades for women of her generation, and adventures in exotic locales. 

Aunt Trudy was the kind of woman to inspire you to be more than you are currently being. She had spirit, intelligence and a strong will. She lived life to the fullest. Something I think some of us forget to do.

I am told that one of her nieces brought champagne to the care home in England where Aunt Trudy died. She and the staff toasted the woman.

An appropriate tribute -- one I plan on participating in. There's a good bottle of champagne on the shelf and I think it's been waiting for tonight. Here's to you Aunt Trudy...

Thursday, November 20, 2008

On guard

War has been declared at our house. We will not go down without a loud and boisterous fight. I'm not exactly sure who we are fighting, but there's been some serious action today.

I have no dining chairs. Most of the blankets in the house are being used. There are no available pillows for anyone. I had to "borrow" this computer chair to type this. But it doesn't matter because...

We have a kick-ass fort!

And Neil is standing guard.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

I'm a virtual superstar!

We have a Wii and the boys love playing baseball. It's become a family bonding experience. Sure, we all play together. I've been known to bowl a mean game.

But I'm really talking about our avatars. There's Mom and Dad. There's the grandparents (Marna and Pa). There's the uncles. There's the fake hideous relative named George.

And we all end up on a baseball team whether we are really playing or not. It's computer-generated quality time.

My dad can't play baseball in real life (he uses a walker), but his avatar's been known to hit a home run on Wii baseball. 

I'll hear the shouts: "Go Pa! Go Pa!" It's as if Pa had really saved the game. They cheer and applaud him as if he were in the house.

Same goes for Marna (my mom):

"Marna's up!" 

"She's good!"

I've been scarred by the years of parks league softball my dad made me play, and a truly bad season of intramural softball in college (there was a lot of beer, so truly it wasn't that bad). I'm not a big baseball fan.

But on the Wii, my boys actually want me on their team. It's changing my whole attitude toward sports (just the attitude, not actually participating in them)... I could be a superstar!

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Not quite a 100 bucks

I heard this strange noise in the middle of the night. I went to investigate.

It was a little boy digging through his bed trying to find the tooth fairy pillow. (It had fallen between the bed and the wall.)

He fished out the treasure the Tooth Fairy had left.

"Five dollars!" ...

"and GOLD!!" (a gold dollar coin)

He jumped up to get his wallet from his sock drawer (that's where all tycoons keep their money, I believe).

"Five bucks!"

He crawled back under the covers and was fast asleep, dreaming no doubt about how far those 5 bucks would go...

Monday, November 17, 2008

Neil's first tooth

You thought I wasn't going to make it today, didn't you?

Neil lost his first tooth this morning! He was sitting on the stairs right after he woke up. It's his sunny little spot where he can see downstairs, but he can take his time waking up before he joins us. 

Out fell his tooth, right into his hand.

He is very excited. He thinks the Tooth Fairy might leave 100 bucks.

If you're 5, you should dream big.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

The whole tooth

Neil's about to lose his first tooth. It's wiggling and wiggling. He's working it, but not yet. Soon though.

This afternoon he had a serious question for his daddy.

"Does the tooth fairy come every day?"

"He only comes when you lose a tooth."

"Yeah, but can I lose it today? or another day? Will the tooth fairy come on Mondays?"

"The tooth fairy will come any day you lose a tooth and put it under your pillow."

"But Dad," butted in big brother Jack, "Remember that time the tooth fairy didn't come? You said it was his day off."

Oh yeah, that time.

"Union rules have changed since then."

Saturday, November 15, 2008


Dean was rescued by a family friend who was able to get him home. I am forever grateful.

We are hunkering down with supplies, movies and each other. Life is good.


So I woke up this morning when a friend called about this. They had been evacuated because of the fire, and she was wondering about Dean in the hospital. I began to aggressively wonder too. 

Turns out I can't get to Dean. The freeways and roads between him and me are closed. I don't like it. Feels like the '94 earthquake when I was in the West Valley and he was in Santa Clarita. It felt like forever without him.

Right now he's still in a hospital bed. He's heard rumors that some patients have been evacuated. 

I had planned a sweet, family post today about how we managed to pull of movie night in a hospital room with Daddy. We did. We watched "The Wizard of Oz" on hospital TV, sipped tomato soup brought from home, fresh bread and little boys taking turns snuggled into the non-surgery side of their dad. It was good.

And now today ... This could be an adventure-filled day.

Friday, November 14, 2008


Just in case I don't make it back later today. Here's my blog post and it is decidedly NOT stellar!

Dean is good. He is very tired, but looks good and will come Saturday. He's in room 315 and you can call or visit.

Thank you to everyone who has (and continues to) prayed for us, helped us, picked up kids or just called to make me feel better. Love to you all.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Surgery day

Today is surgery day (11 a.m.). Pray for Dean (and his crazed wife).  
Neil is hoping for Dad gets a hole in his chest like Iron Man. Mom is not so much hoping for that...

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

It's always the roomie

One of Dean's hospital roomies is an elderly gentleman who has been having very loud conversations with Arnold Schwarzenegger and singing along to the Red Hot Chili Peppers.

"What I've got you've got to get it put it in you.
What I've got you've got to get it put it in you.
What I've got you've got to get it put it in you.

"Give it away. Give it away. Give it away now..."

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Overheard in the ER

Nurse: "So you are driving yourself? Is that why we aren't giving you pain medication?"

Patient in bed next to Dean: "I'm a truck driver and I'm supposed to work tonight."

Nurse: "OK."

Patient: "But if you want to dope me up, I don't really care. It's cool."

ER without George Clooney

We spent the day in the ER today. Dean is still there. I came home to feed the dogs, let them run a bit and catch up on e-mails (do you see why I need an iphone?!).

Looks like Dean does not have severe acid reflux/heartburn. Looks like he has been having gallbladder attacks for the last year and a half...

He's being admitted to the hospital (He's enjoying the morphine) and eventually will have surgery (I think further down the road).

Take care.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Let the fun begin

November is an odd month in the school calendar. The kids don't have a full week of school all month and we won't be on a regular schedule until next year because here comes parent conferences, Thanksgiving, Christmas, school programs and parties, New Year's and suddenly it's the middle of January and please, Dear God, let the kids return to school on a regular basis with regular hours!

Today the kids are off for Veteran's Day, and they are off tomorrow too. There's been a sleepover, video games since 6 a.m., mounds and mounds of sourdough toast, and a heated debate over Legos. I'm planning on tossing them outside to play for awhile -- a long while. 

I think it's the healthiest thing to do.

Especially since I just threatened to duct-tape Jack's mouth shut if he yells at his brother one more time over a video game...

Sunday, November 09, 2008

History lessons required

Dean took the boys to a Civil War re-enactment yesterday. Our boys are still young so their knowledge of the Civil War is limited. We didn't realize how limited until yesterday.

Neil told me he saw our president speak. George W. doesn't seem like the Civil War kind of guy, but who knows...

"Yeah, I saw President George Clooney."

Ahh. After a moment of inner speculation on the awesomeness of a George Clooney presidency, I let Neil know that George Clooney isn't the president and the person he actually saw was an actor playing our 16th president, Abraham Lincoln. I tried to throw something in there about the Gettysburg Address (which the actor had recited), but Neil was too busy with his 19th century gun toy.

Jack didn't like the cannons, but he did like the Civil War military hat he brought home (Northern issue of course). 

Neil wanted to tell me about the battle he saw. 

"The Civil War was a tie, Mom." 

Not exactly, my son...

"The Blue Team and the Gray Team shot at each other. Then one guy from the Gray Team tried to run away and his own Gray guy shot him!"

They aren't teams, honey. They are different sides in a war -- The North vs. the South. It's the Southern states and the Northern states of the United States...

"Yeah, the Blue team won the first battle, but the second one was a tie..."

It's not a football game. It's a war. What you saw was a re-enactment of certain battles, but the war was a long time ago... 

Neil was just staring at me blankly. And that's when I broke down and used Pokemon as an analogy (each battle has several fights... sort of like war. You can win a battle but still lose the war)... I am ashamed.

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Girls these days

I stole a teen magazine from an actual teen girl. It's her own fault. She left it out on the kitchen table and her mom made the mistake of inviting me in for coffee.

It's been awhile since I read a teen girl magazine, and I might be old and fuddy duddy (I can't be that fuddy duddy, I just lifted a mag from my friend's kid)...

But they don't make teen mags like they used to... Or I wasn't reading the right ones.

The first thing that caught my eye was the article titled "What's up down there?" "Are you normal? Vanquish those vajajay worries right here."

I'm not sure Cosmo is that straight forward, but me and my vajajay feel much better after reading the advice.

Like any magazine targeted at the fairer sex, there are a lot, A LOT, of ads for tampons, pads, liners, etc. It's clearly a marketing definer.

My favorite is the tough girl soccer player kicking a red-wrapped present with the label "Mother Nature's Monthly Gift" under the headline "BRING IT ON." Ah, youth. Have a couple of kids and you start yelling bring it on to menopause...

Friday, November 07, 2008

Don't believe the kids

I have several friends who are substitute teachers and it's always good to hear what kids have to say. I found this one funny:

The students were asked to draw their eco-system. Most were drawing their homes.

One little girl had a picture of her house with several bedrooms. My teacher-friend commented how nice her drawing was and the little girl explained: "This is Daddy's bedroom and this is Mommy's bedroom."

My teacher-friend kept any comment to herself and just smiled at the little girl.

But the little girl had more to say, "They never sleep together. Oh, except on their anniversary."

Can you imagine what your kids' teachers know about you?

Thursday, November 06, 2008

New hope

On Tuesday night we kept the kids up to watch Obama and McCain -- both beautiful and graceful speeches in victory and defeat. We tried to convey how you can disagree with people and still not believe them evil. How in this country, the campaign might be a fierce fight but when it is all done we hope and try to reconcile in the end. We try to be one America.

We tried to convey the moment -- how incredible it was to see an African-American elected president for the first time in our country's history. We tried to convey that it was more than that. That we felt that hope had won (I can't believe I'm quoting Oprah. Someone send help.). We talked about how if we lived in or near Chicago we would have bundled up the kids and dragged them out there.

But our history was on the couch -- Mom's and Dad's hands meeting as we wrapped our arms around two little boys and prayed that it would be different.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Kids and politics don't mix

I've got a democracy hangover. 

So far this morning I've explained (to Jack) the Electoral College, the popular vote, the Religious Right, abortion and the moment of conception... Amazingly enough that last one did not evolve into the full-blown sex talk. I didn't say I was explaining any of this well. I need to get a cup of coffee in me before we go on.

Thank God the kid went to school.


I miss the newsroom. On big nights (elections, Oscars, crimes, etc.) you felt like you were part of something bigger. Disseminating information is a powerful thing, an amazing process. It's why I love newsrooms.

It's also a great cover for my obsessive compulsive need to watch CNN for hours, read every wire story I could find and then search for more to read. The internet does a decent job bringing that into the home, but it's missing the journalists hanging around throwing their two cents into the fray.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Election Day

Life without idealism is empty indeed. We must have hope or starve to death. --Pearl Buck

This is it. It's Election Day. It's really still Monday night creeping toward dawn. I'm avoiding going to sleep. When I wake up will it finally be Election Day? Will it be historic? Will it be unbelievable?

Monday, November 03, 2008

Neil's list

Neil is writing his list for his birthday party. It's fun to watch. Very few social conventions. No need to invite people he "has to".

He's debating if Mom and Dad get to go ... 

Most of the people on his list are longtime buddies. He's thinking about this year's classmates but he's not sure if he can invite one boy from the red group without inviting them all. Apparently the red group in kindergarten is intimidating.

I go through the list of all the boys in his class (we aren't even pretending that girls are going to be at this Star Wars party). When I get to one boy, Neil comments, "He has a problem with biting and spitting."

He doesn't make the list, but Neil is going to not mention the party to him. "I really don't want him to bite me."

So maybe there are social conventions in kindergarten.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

I'm dry already

We welcomed the time change with great joy in our house. Any time we get an extra hour of sleep it feels like a miracle.

It's been a rough week at Chez Yerem: Dean has been very sick (but doing well today, thank you); the activities have been many; and sleep has been little.

We just played hooky from church and the Harvest Festival isn't till this afternoon. It's a limited amount, but it's free time. Yahoo!

And you probably don't care about any of that, but I'm trying to blog every day. Why hasn't Neil said something cute yet today? That's always good for a post... 

Saturday, November 01, 2008

Halloween Hangover

Happy Belated Halloween! We had great fun. Exhausting great fun.

Why do I feel like I've been run over? I remember holidays before kids. They were fun, easy, soooo much slower paced (though I didn't know it at the time. Who knew just getting only yourself ready to go to a place of your own choosing was such a luxury?).

Two class parties, creating an auction basket for the Harvest Festival on Sunday, homemade Halloween cookies and a trick-or-treat gathering at our house has me almost in a coma today!

Thursday, October 30, 2008


Speaking of the City Council meeting: The council honored 4 of the 5 Olympic medalists from Santa Clarita. I'm surprised we have that many medalists from the Beijing games. I believe two of them had competed in multiple Olympics (two or three and were looking forward to 2012).

Of course Rep. Buck McKeon was there along with representatives from our other local offices. With all those politicians around you can see why Neil thought there might be an Obama or a McCain. It was nice that McKeon actually showed up in person vs. sending someone from the office.

At the mayor's suggestion, Chrystl Bustos, David Neville, Alyson Felix and Kim Rhode wore their medals and walked around the chambers with them. The boys thought it was awesome. 

Chrystl Bustos was really kind. She came over to the boys and let them touch them and she said nice things.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Time for our citizen badge

The Cub Scouts lead the flag salute at last night's Santa Clarita City Council meeting. I'd add a photo, but as I was standing at the back of the room ready to take their photo standing up front somehow I forgot that people usually stand to say the Pledge of Allegiance so when the entire room stood up, I was surprised that I couldn't even see my kid let alone take his picture. Somehow, I'm thinking I could have thought that through a little better.

But as we were sitting there, watching a little of the meeting, Neil seemed to realize he was surrounded by politicians. I know the feeling. It's like the hair on the back of your neck stands up and you start to itch.

Neil was scanning the room. He even moved around trying to check things out. Finally, when he couldn't find what he wanted, he asked Dad: "When are we going to see Obama or McCain?"

No more presidential debates for 5-year-olds.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Go feed people

Jack suggested a new website to visit: Free Rice

We've earned thousands of grains of rice this evening alone. Jack loved that he could show us something new. I loved that he and Neil were so excited about the chance to "earn" grains of rice for someone who was hungry. They understood rice and how good it feels in your belly (even if the only hunger they know is from lunch until dinner).

Friday, October 24, 2008

An exercise in futility?

I just joined NaBloPoMo and I'm stressed out already. Do I really think I can post EVERY DAY for the entire month of November? What about taking the kids to school? kids homework (4th grade is kicking my butt)? working? coffee drinking? complaining about the PTA? ignoring the laundry and bathrooms? These things take up serious time.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Jack's Dog Days

You know when you go to far as a parent? That moment when you are trying to warn the kids of something and you go just a bit too far and you terrify them. It's never good.

Jack has a habit of wrestling with his dog Cody. They wrestle; they growl at each other; and Jack lets Cody gnaw on his hand. It's quite a love affair. Cody thinks Jack is just another dog in the pack. He plays with Jack the same way he plays with Shiloh.

Sometimes the play gets a little rambunctious. Now when it's Shiloh and Cody going rough and tumble -- have at it. But when it's Cody and my first born going at it -- I don't think so

Cody has started jumping up (again. Didn't we fix that?) but mostly only to Jack. He jumps right in his face and tries to get a little nip in. It's definitely a "come play with me" approach, but it is not an approach that is Mother Approved.

So I've been working on Jack (he listens slightly better than the dog), trying to get him to understand that he needs to be the dog owner, not the dog. He needs to set some boundaries with Cody or I can't leave him alone with the dog. 

Jack doesn't understand why I'm being so mean. "He just wants to play, Mom."

And Cody does just want to play, but he also herds us around the house, pushes past all of us and generally thinks he owns the joint.

I try to explain to Jack that you can still play with the dog, but we need to make sure Cody understands who is in charge. At this point both the dog and the boy look at me (OK. They are trained somewhat.).

"Mom, he's just playing. It's fun. I don't mind it. I like it," my 9-year-old tries to explain. 

Mentally, I'm imagining myself trying to explain to the doctor and to reporters and to disdainful strangers why I let a clearly aggressive dog bite my kid and now he's in the emergency room and will need plastic surgery to live a normal life. (I don't know where Jack gets his overly anxious tendencies.)

And that's when I go to far:

"If the dog bites you I will have to take him to the vet and have him put down."

Seriously JoAnn? You really wanted to go there?

The looks on my children's faces brought me back quickly.

"You mean you want Cody to DIE?!"

"No. No. No."

"Mom, Cody can't DIE."

There are tears welling up. There are protective arms around dogs (I suppose in case I lash out at Shiloh too).

"No. No. No. Mom meant ..." Where am I going with this? Where CAN I go with this?

"Mom meant ..."

Mom meant not to be an idiot, but that didn't work out.

I calmed all parties down and explained that mom meant we have to be better dog owners and teach our dogs right from wrong and not let them do things that might get them in trouble. Mom did not mean she was going to kill the dogs. Mom loves dogs, remember? Mom fought with Dad to get these dogs, remember? Please remember that Mom loves your dogs...

I don't think I got through to them.

Later, I caught Jack on the stairs having a private chat with his dog. He's hugging him and laying down the ground rules: "No more nipping. Mom is really upset. We have to be careful."

Great. He's in league with the dog.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Morning in the suburbs

The morning drive to school is always an adventure. I'm not talking about the usual suspects: The deranged  SUV moms who threaten the lives of others as they get their offspring to school; The parents who drop their kids in the middle of the street because waiting your turn in the valet line takes too much of their valuable time; Or the ones who honk at you and yell because you are in the way -- even though there are dozens of cars in front of you and you are all waiting in the same line to drop off the kids.

I'm talking about what I've discovered since Jack decided to be part of the valet line at his school. (The valet line is made up of kids who either wave you in  (4th graders) or actually get to open the doors to help kids out (5th and 6th graders). At its best, it is very civilized. At its worse ... that would be every morning, but that's another post.)

Jack has to be at school earlier to be part of the valet line so we leave the house at 7:10 -7:15 a.m. The streets are a little clearer (you should see it at 7:40 a.m. when everyone is late for school) and you can actually look around.

With gas prices as high as they are, there are lots of drivers with "big car attitude, but I commute so I need the little car gas mileage." They tend to drive down the middle of the street in their new, much smaller efficiency vehicles, but they haven't gotten over the SUV mentality that requires them to whomp down the road taking up most of the available space. Maybe they don't realize how small their car is now and they don't need that much clearance to avoid hitting parked cars. Or maybe they are just pissed off about driving a matchbox and they are going to take it out on the next oncoming car.

There is the guy in very old, very tight "hey honey they still fit" dolphin shorts who lives around a blind corner so just as you turn, you are -- well -- blinded. I try to prepare myself, but he is a surprise every morning.

There's the man down our street who is usually retrieving his newspaper as I head home. He's not usually wearing pants. Today, it was red and black striped boxers. Too much color, too early in the morning. It draws the eye. Note to self: when sneaking out to get the paper in your pajamas or underwear wear muted colors.

There is the nice woman who waves as she walks every morning. I consider her a friend even though we have never spoken. Watching her walk, it's easy to tell the days that she is feeling on top of the world and the days she is not. The same is probably true for me. Am I hunkered down on the steering wheel grumbling at the kids? Have a I had time to fill a mug of coffee and I'm sitting up a little straighter? Am I blinded by the sunlight and the lack of a clean windshield and she's just hoping she doesn't die?

There is the basset hound who is walked every day. The poor thing labors along, his belly barely clearing the ground his legs are so short. Thank God for the handicap cutouts on curbs when crossing the street. I'm with you canine brother.

There are the teenagers making out before getting into the car to go to school. The first day I thought they were saying goodbye as they went to different schools and I resisted the urge to drive up quickly and pound on the horn (that's my father-in-law's job). But then they got in the same car. Really? I'm hoping they are not brother and sister (it's not THAT kind of suburb) because they did come out of the same house.

And I love the brief views you get of garages. There's the cluttered ones (that would be us) and the completely immaculate ones (it's unsettling). There's the one with all the old movie memorabilia -- giant-sized posters, cutouts, etc. There's the family that set up a table, barrel chairs and the flat screen. There's the one with tables and mannequins. I'm assuming someone designs or makes clothing.

There's the handyman who works out of his garage or the lady who makes scarves all year long and sells them this time of year through Christmas. She sells hundreds and hundreds of them.

I walk these same streets in the afternoon or evening, but it's not the same. The morning seems unguarded. Everyone is heading out for the day so they don't have time to shut the garage door, slip on a pair of pants yet, or put their guard up. It's just all out there.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008


I turned off the TV so I would quit obsessing over the fires. The area above Porter Ranch is on fire and threatening to burn to the sea (remember the year it did?!). Lake View Terrace and its surrounds are still burning. 

And the winds keep blowing. Tis the season.

I remember last year's Castaic fire and the Buckweed fire that burned canyons behind our home. We also had a flare up a block or so away on a hillside. At the time, the computer I use was upstairs, facing a window. It was dark out and all looked good. I looked down at my computer to work and when I looked up a few minutes later a hillside was ablaze. 

Relatives on the Eastern side of the U.S. would call and we would reassure them that it was just across the freeway or the canyon behind us. It seemed far enough away to us, but I'm not sure "just over the freeway" was all that assuring to Grandma in Atlanta.

I've had too many years of reading the wires non-stop, watching the news shows and just doing what you do in a newsroom. It's a nasty habit.

So now I'm obsessing on the internet. Nothing healthy going on here.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Gonna call it a night

So we just finished Movie Night at the kids' school. Three of the PTA dads were in charge. One of them was the dad in this house so you know that means I'm working.

They chose "Ghostbusters." Yeah, "Who ya gonna call? Ghostbusters!" 

It sounded like a great idea -- catchy song, funny. Right? That's how I remembered it. Of course the last time I saw the movie was in the '80s. I think the big hair and giant earrings have permanently damaged my memory.

There were a number of things I didn't remember:
Like when Sigourney Weaver's character gets taken over by Gozar. That was a bit scary. In fact, the movie had some pretty creepy parts to be showing an elementary school audience.

Then there's the cursing and creative name calling. Quite a bit of it actually. It's funny how you don't notice it until you have kids and you helped picked the movie and now other people's kids are watching it.

Then there's the ghost blow job. That was great.

And a possessed Sigourney Weaver wants Bill Murray's character "inside her."

Yeah. Just keeps getting better and better.

The PTA dads have decided to cut to the chase. Avoid any pretense. Next time the movie committee is going to show "Animal House" and any kid who falls asleep will be put in a grocery cart and left on the principal's lawn...

Thursday, October 09, 2008

How old did you say you were?

Informal chat at church on Sunday turned to FDR -- not history book discussion, but memories and real-life experience with the president.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

I just need a light

I want to talk directly to the Environment. It's not that I don't like you. I do. I really do. It's just that I want my dimmer lights back. I want them back in a baaaad way. I can't take it anymore.

We are trying to be green.

The kids have mastered turning off the faucet while they brush their teeth (now, if I could get them to turn out the light when they leave the bathroom).

My husband and I have been known to have fights in front of the trash can because he has thrown something I consider highly recyclable into the trash bin instead of the recycling bin.

Our carpet is made of recycled materials.

I forced my husband to use no-VOC paint in the dining room and living room. I'm living with the crappy results. I try to clean off the marks on the walls that happen every time you touch them. 

I've switched the soaps in the house to a natural, clean environment kind, even though the glass cleaner is questionable and my windows have streaks. (Please keep the windshield streaks in mind if you step in front of my van in the early morning when the sun hits it just right...)

We seldom use Ziploc bags. We've been using that good old Tupperware that's been in the cupboard for years. The kids have to sign a waiver if they try to take an extra bag.

We take our reusable bags to the grocery store, Target, wherever (you should have seen the looks we get at the mall).

But the CFLs are making me crazy. We changed over the whole house. I know. I know. They are more efficient. You can save lots of money. They last longer. Blah, blah, blah.

I don't think it is true. I think it's a big fat lie. 

We've replaced more CFLs this year than we've replaced regular light bulbs in the past. And let me say the cost of the CFLs sort of mitigates any savings we are getting on the electricity bill.

Not to mention the mercury in the CFLs which means you can't just toss it in the trash can. And DON'T accidently drop it and create a hazardous waste situation (I'm just saying...).

And truthfully, I hate the CFLs in my dimmers. The package says they work, but my eyes say differently. I know I'm getting older and bifocals are no doubt just around the corner, but I know when the dimmer isn't working. I may use the dimmer switch, but the light is either on or off. There's not a lot of in-between (at least without a serious case of the flickers).

So, Environment (and I know I'm letting Al Gore down here) can I have my dimmer lights back? Can all that other stuff count for something? I promise to use them sparingly. 


Friday, October 03, 2008

Family torture

Last month my cousin Mandi and her family made the mistake of visiting us. They came just to hang out. Our kids are of similar ages and they have a good time together. I like that our mothers would get together and let us kids play and now we are doing the same.

Unfortunately, they dropped by on a weekend that was devoted to Cub Scouts. We may never see them again.

Friday night was movie night and the pack meeting for the cub scouts. "Hey, join us at the local school, sit on hard concrete and watch 'Iron Giant' after seeing lots of little boys you don't know get badges, belt loops and pins." We did give them popsicles.

They also got to see Dean dress up as Bobcat Bill -- the wild man from the hills who brings bobcat blood (sometimes warm Gatorade and sometimes tomato juice) for the new bobcats to drink... It's a very male ceremony.

Saturday actually provided some free time, though not much. There were boats to carve, sand and paint for Sunday's Raingutter Regatta. That oh-so-fun event where you use a straw to blow your sailboat the length of a rain gutter. First one to the end wins. Please do not hyperventilate.

Yes, we made them make little wooden boats to race in rain gutters. Then we made giant pirates on cardboard for decorations at the pirate-themed regatta. The giant pirates were also targets for the water balloon launchers that one of the leaders created out of materials that might remind one of a beer bong (reduce, reuse and recycle).

Saturday night we made pizzas -- because apparently we did not have enough arts and crafts all day...

Sunday turned out to be Sage's birthday. And don't you think hours at the park in the hot sun (and ooooooh, was it hot) and a Raingutter Regatta is a 9-year-old girl's dream birthday?!

We did fit in some swimming and dinner at Islands afterward with singing and celebrating. But truthfully, we were all ready for bed!

Can you see why I'm excited about NOT adding flag football to this?!

Thursday, October 02, 2008

The Ice Man Cometh

I've got two boys and two dogs. There are a lot of weird noises in this house. I have a don't ask, don't tell policy. So it took awhile before my brain registered that the ice dispenser on the fridge was running and running and running.

I didn't even look. I just yelled from the family room like any good mother would do.

"Jack! How much ice do you need?!"

I should have looked. I heard the CRASH.


There was ice everywhere. There was ice all over the kitchen floor. It had shot into the dining room. It had landed on the counter. Ice was pouring out of Jack's hands as he desperately tried to catch it all as even more shot out of the refrigerator door.


It was like a frozen machine gun. Ice was flying. The dogs were going beserk (Yippee! Ice treats!) and chasing the pieces as they skittered across the floor. Jack was panicking.

Mom MacGyver kicked in. I quickly worked my way through the ice-machine-made tundra (It was so quick, but I'm pretty sure I did a double flip over the ice, landing perfectly in front of the fridge). I found the boy's water cup jammed into the ice dispenser keeping it open. With my handy mom pocket knife, some string, gum and a paperclip, I freed the cup and stopped the onslaught of ice.

OK. It didn't really take Mom MacGyver, but Jack did manage to wedge a cup into the ice dispenser. He couldn't get it out and he thought he was going to get into trouble for breaking the fridge so he thought he could cover up the mounds of ice being hurled onto the floor. Now, I know I can be a little lax, but really? You thought Mom wouldn't notice?

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

I need a makeover.

If coal can become clean energy ...

If high fructose corn syrup can offer the sweet surprise of being all natural ...

If the potato can peel back its reputation as a fattening, worthless starch and have its natural goodness unearthed ...

Can you imagine what can become of me?! The possibilities are endless, the future is bright, the time is ripe...

It's all abut the makeover, some a little more extreme than others. Marketing (a good ad campaign topped by a flashy web site) makes reality, right?

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Welcome to your life

We helped one of my brothers move a while back. He left a very nice place (no doubt with drawbacks but they were hidden, especially to children) that he had to himself to move in with a roommate.

The old place stood on its own -- a sort of one-bedroom little house. My sons were quite enamored with it. It was very bachelor pad, but I think they thought of it as a clubhouse.

The new place is also very nice. Just different. And the roommate has art on the wall and nice furniture. It's also up a flight of stairs. In my sons' eyes it is much more grownup and not nearly as fun as the old place.

We carried boxes and clothes and furniture into the new place. We helped put things in storage in the attic.

As my brother, my husband and my sons stopped to take a break. Jack took a look around with the hard, honest eyes of a child... the bedroom is smaller and is piled with the just-moved-in boxes, the roommate had tons of his own stuff piled around and things were clearly going to be different.

"This could be your LIFE," Jack says with a wave of his hand.

"Uh. It is my life," said his uncle.

Monday, September 29, 2008

It's all clear now

I feel I have fallen into the HD trap (carefully crafted no doubt by my husband)...

My husband was an early laser disc dork in the day. Something about the quality of picture, etc.

"Can't you see the difference? It's amazing."
"Sure. Yeah. Got that."

Over the years we've upgraded DVDs, DVD players, cable and televisions all in search of this elusive, amazing picture quality.

The television we own was carefully researched and purchase (without the wife's knowledge of cost. My brother went with Dean and my brother wouldn't even tell me).

It hasn't really mattered to me. A couple pixels here or there. Whatever.

So the other night I start watching the Daily Show. The picture is fuzzy and soft. The colors aren't clear or crisp. I start whining because we all know our recent family history with technology. It's been well documented here.

"It's not even in focus! What's with DirecTV?!" I complain, ready to dial the memorized number.

And that's when my husband finally, finally got his payoff: "That's because you aren't watching it in HD."


"HD. Try the HD channel."

And sure enough... It was like putting on a new pair of glasses. The colors, the quality, the amazing picture, and the oh, so smug husband. I see Blu Ray on our horizon.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Why is he like my brother Rod?

Neil is just a bad college roommate spouting cliches:

"On like Donkey Kong" (as he challenges you to whatever)...

"You snooze, you lose" (as he jumps on the couch and steals your seat)...

"That's the way I roll" (with the appropriate flick of his finger and a wink)...

"Show me some respect" (as he saunters around the living room)...

"Too bad, so sad" (well that one is just self-explanatory and just as obnoxious)...

"We've got to book it" (meaning we were late for school)...

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

About that ...

It occurred to Jack that I'm writing... on the internet... potentially about him. He doesn't seem disturbed by it. He just requested that I not tell anyone he likes Pokemon. It might be a little too late for that. I'm counting on you to keep it a secret.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Send help -- after the second season

I think we have a problem. Addiction is an ugly world, but I suppose admitting you have a problem is the first step...

We've become addicted to Showtime's Californication.

It's not our fault. We don't have Showtime (We don't have any "premium" channels because we got tired of the "premium" heart failure when the kids found things we had to explain...). But DirecTV has a channel of DirecTV-only shows -- a special treat for subscribers. I'm not even sure how we started (it's so true of most addictions, isn't it?).

DirecTV has these marathons of Californication so we TiVo'd them -- a late night, after-the-kids-go-to-bed kind of guilty pleasure. Of course David Duchovny's character has more sex in that first episode we watched than we've had all month ... but it's the thought that counts, right?

Dean's fighting the urge to wear all black and wander around with a whiskey bottle. 

And smoking is looking mighty cool to both of us (well, not Dean, but I'm willing to go back on inhalers to be cool).

One of the best parts is laughing at dubbing of the curse words for the DirecTV version of the show. Sure, most are freaking or stuff, etc... But then you get the nuggets like: "cheese and rice" and "Virginia" ("be kind to her Virginia").

And then last night we were watching a recorded episode, we've got three or four more left in the queue, so when the show ended with a bit of a stunner we were jolted with the realization that it was the season finale ... Now what's going to happen? What?! No more shows?! What's gonna happen with Hank and Karen? Will Mia publish Hank's book as her own? Will everyone find out what Hank did? What about Becca? Will Bill seek revenge? He doesn't seem like a nice guy. And what about Charlie and his little smurf wife? Will there be more spankings? Lesbian assistants? What?!!!!!

Those bastards. Now I've got to get Showtime.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Say cheese

Yesterday was picture day at school and it was much too stressful.

9-year-old hippie boy doesn't particularly like hair cuts, combing his hair or picking anything but basketball shorts to wear to school.

5-year-old stubborn one sees the 3-level stand that the kids get on for the class photo and it freaks him out. And we have the same argument about the basketball shorts.

Mom can't find clean shirts without stains (NO MORE OLIVE OIL AND BREAD FOR JACK!) for the children. And she is NOT giving in on the basketball shorts (though when we finally get to school, apparently every other mother did).

So I get Jack to stop combing his hair straight down and plastered tight to the sides of his head. I even get him to wash his face. Dean thankfully had ironed a shirt for him that morning (we don't iron for ourselves, but picture day can get us to iron).

Neil gives in on the shorts (with a bribe) and we wash his face. I get the photo guys to show him the stand and that it is harmless.

Awesome. We are at school. The kids look nice (I can always shower tomorrow) and everyone is finally calm (especially mom).

I forgot the order forms at home...

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

On his feet again

In our last post we found mom humble, weak and feeling defeated... It might get worse...

The freaking shoes broke!!!!! Yes, the shoes I finally found after my desperate shopping search (see last post) bit the dust before I picked him up from school.

I am Mom. Hear me be seriously annoyed.

"I'm sorry I caused so much trouble, Mom," Jack says on the way out of school.

"You're not trouble. It's just the way things go sometimes." I couldn't help but let the frustration seep out. "I thought I was doing something really great for you."

"You did do something really great. Thank you."

I am Mom. Hear my heart swell with love and pride.

Today, Jack is wearing the newest, whitest pair of Chuck Taylor's available.

Monday, September 15, 2008

One step at a time

I'm getting tired of these day-late/dollar-short days...

We camped this weekend. We helped Uncle Rod move this weekend. We lost one of Jack's shoes somewhere in the south end of the great state of California this weekend. As you can imagine, it's a big area to search. Especially when you didn't know you needed to be looking for it until after 9 p.m. last night.

We searched and searched and searched and searched. We gave up and went to bed eventually. Jack can just wear an old pair tomorrow...

Of course this morning, we realized that Jack is wearing a 5 1/2 shoe. The closest thing in his closet was a 3 1/2. uh. 

I sent him to school in a pair of Crocs with a note. They aren't supposed to wear Crocs and Jack was none too pleased. I tried to console him and tell him at least he wasn't Mario Batali whose mom makes him wear orange Crocs. Somehow that wasn't comforting to him. So I promised to find him a pair of shoes and bring them back to him by recess at 9:40 a.m.

I had strict instructions -- not like the old black ones, not like the old white ones, not like the red and white ones, not like the ones with designs like Neil wears, not like anything that is ever sold in a store that might open before 10 a.m.

I had my goal -- cheap pair of shoes to be back ups to whatever shoe he wanted to choose in the near futurec. Kids (and this mom) can't live with one pair. 

We hit Wal-Mart the wonder store (which I'm not comfortable shopping at but that's a whole different story). Yeah. NOTHING. (Well, we did contemplate a Hannah Montana pair, but Neil vetoed it.)

Neil and I proceeded to Kohl's. They were open before 9 a.m. and they carried Converse. We knew he liked Converse high tops (plain black of course). None in his size. We did find a pair that was the updated version of the Adidas shoe he lost, but they wanted $79 for it. Are you kidding me? He's 9. Not going to do it.

We then hit Target. Neil and I were getting nervous. Jack's recess started at 9:40 a.m. Neil's school started at 10:20 a.m. Hopefully we were going to make it.

No Converse that fit. No plain colored anything available in Jack's size. I did find a pair of low-top, pull-on hiking shoe in Jack's size that were mostly brown and $20. Target shoes tend to run tight on Jack so I bought a half size up to cover it... Purchase!

We make it to school by 10 a.m. It's the end of recess, but I'm here. Neil is going to be on time and Jack will have shoes! 

Jack's OK with the shoes. He puts them on, says they are fine. I tear off the tags, dump it all in the nearest trash can, and I watch my son head off to class. I'm feeling good. "I am mom! Hear me roar!"

And then I notice his feet are falling out of the shoes...

"Oh, yeah. They are way too big," he says. Thought of telling me that before I tear the tags off and trash them?

I am mom. Weak. Humble. Desperate. 

My hair isn't combed. My kid's shoes are falling off him. It's also my day to work in the classroom.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Dan is the man today

I love my mechanic Dan. I want to bake him cookies, maybe even a pie. (I'd have his babies, but I'm really done with that and it would be weird.)

What brings about such devotion, you ask? Several reasons but the latest is AIR, GLORIOUS AIR! -- as in AIR CONDITIONING.

The air conditioning in my van has been dying. It's been ugly. Actually, it's been hot and sweaty and just unpleasant. I leave nothing in the car and leave all the windows open so it doesn't get too hot. I aggressively pursue shady parking spots (My apologies to the lady with the perfectly good working air conditioning and the tinted windows in the Expedition at the Kaiser parking lot last week.) and generally just live with it.

Fear of how much it was going to cost kept me away from Dan. 

Well, yesterday was the day we gave in and took the van to Dan and he fixed it. Life is good -- gas is down to $3.69 a gallon and I've got working AC. Pile the family in and let's drive around until that sucker feels like a meat locker! (OK. Not really, but you understand the feeling, yes?)

Today, I left things in the van that I had to lock up. No windows down. Several sunny hours later, I just hopped in, cranked up the AC and oooooh it felt gooooood. 

Worth every penny...

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Back to School

And here's a belated first day of school photo. Look at Jack's hair! I wonder how long he wants to grow it. He doesn't say. I thought he would be tired of it by now, especially when he plays or swims. 

Little boys and puppy dogs

Have you seen Marna's new baby? His name is Gizmo and I think Neil is in love. 

Monday, September 08, 2008

Suburban Subversive

I am a bad mother. I let my kid down and I don't even feel sorry.

Jack really wanted to play flag football. But I missed the sign up date. He did make the waiting list but unless I was willing to coach a flag football team (I am not) there wasn't any space for him.

I felt really bad. Until my evil brain reminded me that this means no practices, no games, no canceling plans because of a game conflict, no team mom job this fall, no snack schedules, no team party to plan, etc. No trying to cram homework, dinner, practice in before bedtime. Oh, I felt bad but it felt sooooo good!

It feels gooooood to have no sport commitment. I drive by the park and see teams practicing. There's a twinge of guilt in my heart, but my mind screams "Not me! Not this season!" 

Suddenly we have Saturdays! We might even have a Saturday with NOTHING to do! The possibilities seem endless. We could take a family bike ride. We could hike. We could golf. (Those of you who know me well can stop laughing now. I'm sure Dean would love to do these things with his sons.)

It's sad that this is what passes for subversive behavior in the suburbs: I didn't sign my kid up for a team sport. It seems almost incomprehensible to some. Frequently I just get a blank stare when someone asks what sport the boys are playing this season and I answer "none."

Sign-ups for Winter Basketball are now. The season starts in January. That seems so far away. Will we have had enough of Saturdays? Will we be willing to hand them back to team sports? Will I be able to get away with "oh, I missed the sign ups" again?

Friday, September 05, 2008

It's a dirty job

Dean spent part of Labor Day watching the Dirty Jobs marathon, and now he wants to invite Mike Rowe to do his "dirty job."

I laughed at Dean, "Dirty Job? Not even."

Of course then I thought about what the poor man has done recently (besides the usual working and providing and fathering and husbanding and volunteering and riding for charity, etc.):

1. A rat died in Marna's backyard and Dean had to remove it. My mom handed him a plastic grocery bag thinking he would pick it up with his hand... I'm grimacing as I type so you would be correct in assuming that I was no help. As Dean described it: "It was still pretty fresh." (Please don't think my parents have rats. My mother would be appalled. Neighbors of my parents just moved into a vacant house and have been exterminating rats. Neil was quite thrilled to find one in Marna's yard. "Sweet!" Marna was less thrilled.)

2. We've been ignoring the fish tank. Of course when black stuff is oozing out of the filter and the kids' room is starting to smell worse than the usual dirty socks, you can't ignore it anymore. That was Dean's job too.

3. Dean took the kids for a bike ride which turned into a 6-mile ride (at least one mile of which was almost straight up hill) to my parents' house. At one point he was carrying his bike and the 5-year-old's bike while trying to cajole the aforementioned 5-year-old up a very steep hill (He would say MOUNTAIN.) and trying to keep the 9-year-old from being run over by traffic. Of course, the 9-year-old wanted to ride back home too.

4. He rescued a remote-control flying thing (It looks like a giant bug to me) that was covered in saliva from a neighbor's growling dog.

5. Do you have an idea how much poo two dogs can produce? Enough said.

6. Speaking of poo: Do you have any idea how much poo a 5-year-old can produce? And then how much toilet paper he uses when unsupervised? And what it does to the toilet? And what it does to the bathroom after the 5-year-old panics and keeps flushing?

And this was an easy week. No one had the flu. The dogs have run out of plums to eat in the backyard (THAT was not pretty). And nothing has crawled into our yard and died. Of course, there's always the weekend...

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Gotta teach the kid to air-kiss

"Neil when you get to Marna's house, give the new puppy a kiss for me."

"Sure. ... Ummm... Not on the lips, right?"


Monday, September 01, 2008

Gynecological twin

Sarah Palin has a vagina, so I'm voting for her! 

That's the Republican Party plan, right? All you need is a gynecological twin (thank you Samantha B. on the Daily Show) and all those supposedly disenfranchised Hillary voters are yours for the taking!

"It turns out the women in America aren't finished yet..." I can still hear Gov. Palin at the VP announcement press conference. I could be wrong but I'm pretty sure Hillary supporters weren't just voting for her because she has two X chromosomes.

But maybe the Republican Party thinks women are that stupid. Maybe those currently in charge of it think women will just look at her boobs and the school marm look, and they will ignore the deep, deep, deep ideological divide between the two.

I'm kind of disappointed. The Republican Party is usually better at marketing than this. I would have expected it from the Democratic Party...

Saturday, August 30, 2008


I have overloaded on Democratic convention watching, checking many channels' coverage through the wonders of TiVo (yeah, I know it's weird, but the old opinion editor/journalist in me has not completely died) and I have to say, "I hate the media." Old Media and its buffoons are embarrassing. I don't think there was a single commentator on TV who was worth listening too. They bashed one way, then they bashed the next way just to have something to say -- though I'm not sure they were actually listening to themselves.

Are we sure James Carville is a Dem? He was ridiculous (even more so than usual). CNN's lineup on the convention floor plus all the graphic crap on the screen ALL the time was asinine. Do I really need the barometer of noise from the convention floor the entire time CNN is on the air? They even kept that crap on the screen during commercials.

Thankfully, there's been lots of Daily Show and Stephen Colbert skewering politicians and media personalities.

I feel ready for the Republican convention in St. Paul.

Friday, August 29, 2008


I still have a crush on Al Gore.

Thursday, August 28, 2008


I've been telling the Skank487 story lately so I thought I would share it here (My apologies if you have or have had the IM moniker of Skank487):

When we go away one of my brothers will stay at the house and take care of the dogs. Well, years ago my youngest brother watched the house and the dog. He was 21 or 22 at the time. He used my husband's work laptop to surf the internet. We won't discuss what he may have looked at or whatever he did online, but we do know he installed some instant messaging software that we were NEVER able to fully destroy.

You know where this is going, don't you? Yeah. Poor husband. He didn't see it coming. He is standing in front of a large group of higher-ups at Washington Mutual. His laptop screen is shown on a giant video screen so everyone can see. Other higher-ups who couldn't make it where connected online.

There's my husband pitching the e-bidding process he has been working on for the company when up pops a little window: Skank487 says "Want to play?"


My Eagle Scout husband was mortified. It took him a few minutes to figure out how to get that off the screen. There were more than a few snickers. Even more snickers when he threw out there, "My brother in law used my computer this weekend." Yeah, right, buddy...