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?