Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Jack is wise beyond his years

So fifth grade has lots of group projects. LOTS of group projects. I don't always understand projects ("You need a poster advertising an earthquake?") but I am hearing about them through the filter of a 10-year-old boy.

Right now Jack is in a group working on a project about the early colonies. He is a little frustrated. First the group consisted of him and 4 girls. He's not old enough to appreciate the potential of that situation. The teacher added another boy, Andrew, to the group so Jack wasn't completely overrun by the females.

The group has to come up with a song for their colonies (they have the middle colonies in case you were wondering). I don't quite understand why they need a song, but I'm just a mother. What do I know...

There is some serious in-group conflict right now. The girls can't decide which song best represents their colonies: "It's a Small World"? "New World"? A Taylor Swift song? The Doo-Dah song (Jack's title. I have no idea)?

I naively asked, "What do you and Andrew want as a song?"

"Mom," Jack sighed. "We are boys. We get no say. It's just not natural for the boys to make the decisions..."

The female/wife part of me says he'll have a successful marriage... The mother part of me thinks he might need a male teacher soon...

Thursday, September 24, 2009

My favorite time of year, so far

The lovely thing about Southern California in September/October -- when we aren't on fire or dreading mudslides because fire burned up the vegetation that keeps the dirt on the hills -- is the weather. It's still warm (even HOT at times), sunny and divine.

We've been enjoying the pool after school on many days. Yes, we have 18 practices, homework, speeches, Cub Scout events and PTA meetings, but somehow we manage to slip in an hour or so floating in the pool. It's been lovely.

It's my favorite thing right now. Me and my boys just floating and chatting about the day. Rarely is anyone else at the pool. It's calm and cool. We drag out the noodles and cruise around. Neil does his impersonation of Michael Phelps. There's some playing with boats, especially in the jacuzzi.

The boys take turns telling me things: describing PS2 Madden Football plays in detail, reporting on who did what in class today. Sometimes they just swim up to me and I get a kiss or a hug for no reason other than it's a good day.

Who says we don't have seasons in Southern California? Sneaking in pool time before it's gone is the best time of year.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009


I haven't posted to this blog lately because most of what I have to say involves PTA. That's what takes up the majority of my days. It's 24/7.

And I'm not sure it is fair or right to complain about others, list the outrageous things people say to me or about me, or the times I've been yelled at by teachers, fellow volunteers, etc.

At least I'm guessing you shouldn't when you are in charge... Let's just say: "I HAD NO IDEA!" and when I can mentally justify putting it in print the stories will be good.

Do I just write what happens and let the reader decide? Do I just let it all slide so it doesn't get worse? Does putting it in print on a blog the same as drawing a battle line?

How do I start an anonymous blog?

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Neil is a helper

So I'm working at the school book fair after school. The boys -- mine and their friend Travis -- are working on homework in a corner.

Within five minutes, Travis comes over and tells me he has finished all his homework. Now, Travis had a lot of work. The week's homework plus the work he missed in class yesterday when he was out. I'm pretty sure he hasn't finished his homework.

"Let me see it," I say and walk over to where they were working.

Neil sees me coming and proudly jumps up and shows me the pages he finished for Travis, "I did the squirrel pages!"


Today's life lesson is about cheating.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009


The kids caught us trying to cheat at Design Star. Damn those public schools, actually teaching basic addition...

Jack started totaling up the two lampshades ($9 each), the curtain rod and curtains (more than $9) and we were over budget. He made me put back the new quilt and pillow shams for the bed...

Dean and I then tried to use some decals I bought ages ago on clearance. They are very retro circles and make a cool design. I'd show you a photo, but they all peeled off the wall and left funny marks on the paint...

The kids won by default. They made a "man-cave" out of their playroom with a $19 table and $1 cushions for their kid chairs.

They believe they are living in the lap of luxury -- something soft under their butts and somewhere to put their feet up.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Let the competition begin

We've been enjoying Design Star as a family. I like that it's not football, baseball or collegiate lacrosse. The male members of the family like the competition part. It's a win-win for family viewing.

It gets ugly too. The boys are quite vocal with that heartless criticism that children have. Neil likes the outrageous, glitzy stuff. Jack wants everything unbreakable so scooters and footballs are allowed in the room... He has quite gotten over Mom banning scooters, bikes and all sports equipment from the house when we redid the floors.

Jack will do almost anything if it is a competition. Neil will do anything that Jack is doing.

So in a desperate attempt to get them to clean up their playroom, we challenged the kids to a Design Star competition. They get the playroom. We get our bedroom (which I should admit is worse than their playroom but I won't).

Each team has $25 at Ikea and they can use anything else from around the house (within reason). Dean and I are already planning on cheating. It's our wallet.

Any questions?

Neil had one: "How much is a mini fridge?"

Sunday, August 02, 2009

August has been rough on the kids

I shouldn't be allowed to talk to the kids...

Jack noticed that a friend of his was starting to grow facial hair. Just the tiniest bit, but it is there. This friend is a year or so older and you can hear his voice starting to change. Here comes adolescence young man!

"That's what happens as you get older. Your body starts to change," I was jumping all over this "teachable moment."

"Your body changes because you are getting ready to become an adult," I'm smiling to myself thinking how wise I am to casually talk to my son, let him know I can answer his questions, etc.

"As you get older there's lots of changes, but your voice will get deeper, you'll need to wear deodorant because your body produces odor and hair begins to grow on your body."

"You mean I'll get armpit hair?" Jack seemed excited about the idea.

"Yes, and other places too," I answered.


"On your face like your friend, some guys get chest hair, and ..."

That's when Jack's eyes grew wide and he fled from the room.

Teachable moment over.

What subject will I bring up to torture the kids tomorrow?

Saturday, August 01, 2009

Dawning of a new month

So it is August 1 and I've had a long enough vacation... though I don't feel very rested. I am in full planning, working, crazy mode for my first year as PTA president. I still hesitate to type that. Am I in denial? I'm glad to work hard for the school my kids attend. I love that PTA raises funds for P.E., music, computer lab, and this next year for an art teacher. I love that we plan fun activities that my kids will remember when they grow up ("My school used to ..."). Hopefully we make them happier, more well-rounded people.

But my old self -- you know the one before marriage and kids and the house in the suburbs -- well, that self would be mortified. PTA president is about as suburb as you get -- as far as stereotypes go.

Bring on the identity crisis.

And I've spread the joy this morning.

I woke up with the realization that today was August 1. New month, new beginnings, loads of work ahead. Gonna threaten the kids with no video games and TV during the school week (Dad gasped). Gonna make everyone read a book before school starts. Gonna make the kids cry.

I pointed out that today was Aug. 1 and school starts on Aug. 13...

Neil responded with "Are you serious?!" He's going into first grade this year and clearly, he can count how many days of freedom he has left.

Jack, who is going into fifth grade, just moaned. He's pre-teen ready. He wants to grow up to be a couch potato.

So now the kids are upset, Mom doesn't know who she is, and Dad is hiding upstairs painting the bathroom.

Hello August!

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Team Yerem

If I had 8 kids, I would make the family do this.

Friday, June 19, 2009

I hate when we overpay for the phone...

Government at its best:

Cold is good

Five days after the last post, our fridge was back thanks to a very helpful repairman. I'm very please with myself for NOT trying to fix it ourselves. If I had followed the advice of the one guy who fixed his fridge, via Google, I would have ordered the wrong $200 part.

The control panel did go bad and now Neil has a nice, useless, hunk of electronics to add to his homemade Transformer costume he's been working on. Neil has been collecting boxes, plastic tubs, etc., and piecing together his best guess at what all the new Transformers are looking like. My contribution has been to cut finger holes and I believe I'm on the hook to paint it when he gets all the parts.

Monday, June 08, 2009

Taking one for the team

I'm eating ice cream. And from the looks of things, I might be eating a lot of ice cream -- quickly.

The ice cream is melting. My fingers are sticky. The refrigerator repair man has been here and still the fridge is not looking good.

We are in reboot mode right now.

After the refrigerator repairman left, I did what I should have done in the first place. I Googled the problem.

We fixed the television -- twice, I might add -- by relying on Google and YouTube videos. Thank you hexagontaginal for your assistance with the colorwheel.

Google has diagnosed our fridge with either the need to reboot or the need for a new control board.

I'm rooting for the reboot because then we'll be done and I won't have to search YouTube for someone who has replaced their control board on the their refrigerator as well as a place to buy one.

Meanwhile, I've shoved everything I can in the little freezer in the garage. I've given up hope on the eggs, sour cream and juice in the refrigerator side... and I'm eating the ice cream that wouldn't fit in the little freezer.

Notice I'm not making myself an omelet with those eggs...

Wednesday, June 03, 2009


Since we last chatted, I've been installed as PTA president, my husband went to Canada for four days (on business, not because I became PTA president), the kids had 3 baseball games, 4 practices, 2 den meetings and several play dates. We've gone to open house, a school award ceremony, various meetings and helped at school movie night. I've sent out letters for the teacher gift and the class party (separate letters of course) for Jack's class, worked on next year's PTA budget and calendar, worked the school book fair and I'm sure done other stuff I can't remember.

What's that? A week's worth?

And there's lots more to do before the school year ends...

Send help.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Rock regrets

oh, it is so very wrong as I listen to my now 10-year-old singing "Can we forget about the things I said when I was drunk..." as he plays Rock Band...

"I didn't mean to call you that..."

"Can you tell me why my car is in the front yard and I'm sleeping with my clothes on..."

The kids giggle like it is sooo goofy and so funny. Like it could never happen.

Should I tell them about college?

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Making music videos

I want to do this for family and friends! It is so much fun (Thank you Cup of Jo, which is a blog name I LOVE):

Brian & Eileen's Wedding Music Video. from LOCKDOWN projects on Vimeo.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

We should be Luddites

About a week ago our television (yes, the big expensive one. not the little one with the VCR that cost almost nothing and we've had forever) started making an odd noise. It was a slight hum at first and then...


It's a loud, raging, angry TV noise that forces me to shut it off and run with the children, screaming for Dean to do something.

Like any modern woman, I Google "Samsung DLP TV making loud noise" and after reading one or two blogs, I diagnose our problem as the color wheel.

I love Google. Chances are that someone somewhere has had the exact same problem as you -- only they have blogged about it or, even better, posted 5 instructional videos to YouTube about it.

We've replaced the lamp in the TV and that was a few-minute job. It was great. So we were feeling pretty cocky. We've got instructions. We've got videos. We can do this! We order the part and wait for its arrival...

Do we read the instructions? Do we watch the videos? No. We just assume it will be like the lamp ...

The part arrived last night so we print out the instructions and hit the bookmarked YouTube. Sure, it's almost 10 p.m., but how long could this take?

Uh. The instructions are 17 pages. Slight sinking feeling.

FIVE videos? Really? Sinking lower.

This might take a bit longer than the lamp.

Dean starts following the videos. 14 screws to take off the back of the TV. Done.

Casings and frames and ribbon connector wires. Don't touch anything that looks like it MIGHT have to do with your screen picture. Done.

Slowly, but surely we follow the instructions step-by-step-by-step. We've started reading the comments on the instruction blog. We might have to remove a jumper... No idea what a jumper is, but we can Google that later. We might have the blue and red cables mixed up. It seems a lot of folks did that. Apparently, there's also a large contingent that didn't have sound after this procedure...

The sinking feeling has not left, but by now we are knee-deep in expensive TV parts, cables and a color wheel that looks oh-so-very fragile.

By midnight, we could see the light at the end of the tunnel, but was it a TV picture in high definition or just a well-lit blank screen?

Once everything was back together, we had to figure out the wires that go from the Wii to the TV, and the DVD player to the TV, and the satellite to the TV and some other wires we aren't sure where they are from but they are on the TV now...

The moment of truth....


Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Family fun

This is just fun: Awkward Family Photos

I need to hunt up the one where my Dad is flipping us all off for telling stories about him.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Jack Unplugged

The best thing in the world is going on in my family room right now.

Jack is singing "Eye of the Tiger" at the top of his lungs into the microphone on Rock Band. Yes, Jack -- my shy, quiet, serious one -- is having a blast. He's singing and singing and talking into the mic like he's a rock star. There's not a tinge of self-consciousness. No shyness. Just playing. It's amazing.

I LOVE Rock Band. Who knew it would give me this Jack:

"Thanks for supporting us guys!" He yells to the imaginary crowd with a wave of his hand and followed by "Thank you very much!"

"You guys are great. Peace out!"

Rock on!

Thursday, May 07, 2009

Amazingly, we are still alive

Please note: My husband is out of town. Something weird has to happen. It always does.

Yesterday, I was blowing dry my hair when the hairdryer made a popping noise.

I looked at it and sparks were shooting out of it. Not a good sign.

I dropped it on the floor. I was downstairs so it was on tile, not the linoleum we have upstairs). Then flames started coming out. The signs are not getting better.

Don't you hate those moments where YOU are the adult and you better think of something fast or we are all going up in flames and this is gonna be a tough one to explain when Dean gets home to what remains of our home...

I unplugged it and the flames when away. Clearly I'm a firefighter at heart.

It was pretty exciting. The cord burned all the way through. The room filled with smoke.

And now I'm pretty sure Jack will NEVER let me blow dry his hair again.

Later, Jack and I get home from school and we hear this noise. A non-stop beep like an alarm but a mini-alarm.

We look out back. We listen out front. Nothing. Where is the noise coming from?

Not from the toy baskets. Not from the closet of toys...

We narrow it down to the garage. I'm trying to figure out what alarm thing we have? I know smoke detectors (see earlier part of the story) and this isn't a smoke alarm sound.

The sound appears to be coming from the garage door control screwed to the wall. I try pulling the wires. Nothing (I'll be thankful for that later).

I push on buttons. Noise is still going.

I try to yank the wires out again to get it to stop. The wires don't budge (thank you again).

I unscrew the thing from the wall (after searching for a screw driver. Dean, please put away your tools.). Once I have it off the wall, I realize that is not what is making noise. I'm grateful that I was not successful at pulling the wires out. Dean only has to put it back on the wall.

Great. What the heck is it?! I'm more than a little worried by now. It must be carbon dioxide and there's an alarm built into the walls that I don't even know about. Or maybe it's another kind of airborne poison and the house is warning us...

It seems to be in the rack of tools, dusters and various other contraptions that sits next to the garage door controls.

I start ravaging that rack. Thing after thing after thing. Do we really need THREE swifter dusters?
I think some of these vacuum attachments are to vacuums we haven't owned in years. There are several things I can't identify.

What could the sound be and how long before we die or something blows up?!

Ah.... I find it!

The culprit is a BBQ fork someone gave us years ago that measures the done-ness of your BBQ-ed meat. The battery is getting low and it wanted to let us know... with a continuous beeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeep that encourages high blood pressure.

I'm just gonna lie down until Dean gets home.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

One day at a time

I'm heading to the big PTA conference in San Jose this weekend. (What happens at PTA Convention stays at PTA Convention, people...)

I have been writing out my schedule so my husband can follow it for ONE day:

6:50 a.m. wake up kids. Use all the negotiating skills you have to get them out of bed.

7:20 a.m. leave to take Jack to school. He needs lunch, water, homework and his glasses.

10 a.m. leave to take Neil to school. He needs to wear red, white and blue. He needs his homework folder. He needs to have the turtle book (make sure you read it again before you go). He needs lunch, backpack and the photos for the end-of-the-year project.

2:15 p.m. -- Both boys get out of school. If you want to walk in to pick them up, you need to park before 2 p.m. otherwise you might as well walk from home.

4:30 p.m. -- Jack has batting practice.

Dean's lucky. There's only one practice. There are no play dates. No other kids to drop off at their homes, etc.

He doesn't have to do the things I do on this day because it is my LIGHT day: laundry, clean the bathrooms, shop for groceries, prepare a team snack, work in two classrooms, handle any PTA or church commitments. Next week is Teacher Appreciation week so he gets out of that too.

Hopefully, no one gets sick ...

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

You're gonna read it and you're gonna like it...

I have always been an enthusiastic reader.

In sixth grade, I remember carrying around a white box with 5 or 6 books in it. I carried it everywhere I went. I wanted to make sure I had something good to read at all times (and I wanted to have options). Clearly I was a social magnet...

In college, I would force friends to read Joan Didion. Salvador was the first journalism essay book I read. I loved it. While I don't force people to read her anymore, I still love Joan Didion.

My favorite childhood book was From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler. My Dad didn't travel much when I was a kid, but when he did he would always bring me home a book. One trip he brought home this one.

It's about a brother and sister who run away from home and hide in the Metropolitan Museum of Art for weeks. They discover art, life and so many things.

I still force 9 year olds to read it. I've given away dozens of copies of the book over the years. I haven't been able to find the original one my dad gave me years ago (I didn't loan it to you did I?), but I do still have a copy in the house.

Recently, it occurred to me that I have a 9-year-old in this house.

Guess what he is reading next? What are my chances of him actually liking it?

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Don't weigh me down

We are getting ready for the Little League carnival and picture day. The boys really want baseball cards this year with their photos.

I actually measured their height and weight this year instead of making it up like I did last year...

Jack jumped on the scale -- 84.4 pounds.

"Yeah!" he said with a double fist pump.

I NEVER have that reaction when I get on the scale.

"Someday I'm going to be 200 pounds," he said. Great. Some kids what to go to college, become doctors, etc. My kid wants to weigh 200 pounds.

"If I want to play professional basketball, Mom, I'm going to have to weigh at least in the hundreds..." he says.

Got to have goals.

Neil weighed in at 56.6 pounds.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Are we there yet?

Last Sunday was kite day for the Cub Scouts. We all piled into a big ol' SUV with another family. It was crowded with 4 kids, 4 parents and all the crap you could find to drag to the beach plus kites.

As with any trip involving children, part of the way there they start asking "Are we there yet?"

I think that question is self-answering... Does it look like we are there yet?

But kids will keep questioning. Why are they not this relentless about homework?

Jack asks, "Are we half way?"

"What about three-quarters of the way?" his friend Graeme asks.

Neil, the younger brother who doesn't want to be left out, pipes in, "Are we 3/dimes there yet?"

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Just get dressed

What to wear? What to wear? What to wear?

Jack started this morning by hurling his body onto the bed at 6:20 a.m. The resulting bounce woke me up. Hello.

He couldn't find jeans. Of course he couldn't, they are folded neatly in his dresser. The organization was disorienting to him.

But those jeans wouldn't do. This pair is too baggy. This pair is too tight. This pair is the wrong color blue. The skinny jeans (that cost a fair bit of money) aren't worth wearing because he might have to control his body enough to not get a hole in the knee. Why wear clothes you can't trash on the playground?

It was over 90 degrees yesterday. I suggested shorts. Apparently that was disorienting also. It's the twice-yearly adjustment to shorts or long pants (depending on the season). My kids will be the last to start wearing shorts and the last to stop wearing them.

Meanwhile, Neil is trying to get his jeans to slip down his hips enough to reveal his underwear. Great.

"Mom, that's what skaters do..."

"We don't know any skaters."


I bought Jack a new pair of shorts and both boys new t-shirts for the coming Scout Idol pack meeting (Cub Scouts will be doing Guitar Hero, playing their own instruments and I believe one den is planning a ZZTop Reunion). Target had some Woodstock options. Though Jack is hoping for a shirt with The Who on it...

Neil, who is not an official Cub Scout, has mentally prepared his outfit. He wants black jeans, black shoes, a black shirt with no sleeves ("because that's what rock stars wear, Mom. They don't have sleeves.").

"And I want something we don't have in this house," Neil adds.

"What would that be?"

"I NEED a silver thing. It hangs down."

What is he talking about?

"It's a silver thing and it goes from your pants to your pocket." Neil shows me his belt loop and then traces the route to his pocket.

Does he want a wallet on a chain? I'm seriously grimacing here.

"You'll have to show me."

Neil also wants a mohawk or longer hair because, again, that's what rock stars have.

This sparks an argument over whose hair is more rock star like. Jack wins because he can completely cover his eyes. Neil can only partially cover his eyes.

Neil is not interested in the groovy guitar shirt Mom bought. But Jack does like the black shirt with the white outlines of instruments. One out of two isn't bad and while Jack wouldn't wear the shorts to school, he did try them on.

And all I can think is how this doesn't even compare to the girl stories I have heard...

Friday, April 17, 2009

Life questions

Because I live near a NEW Target and I have a fist full of gift cards, the pressing question in my life right now is ....

Do I want Guitar Hero or Rock Band for the Wii?

Monday, April 13, 2009

One more day

The Monday after Easter should be a holiday. The kids are tired. I'm tired. I'm sure the teachers are tired...

We could use a break from Spring Break!

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Under siege

Spring Break was going great until these guys invaded. They have conquered the dining room table, the stairs and the upstairs hallway...

There is no escape.

Monday, April 06, 2009

Check out the new lids

We had a big Sunday. In addition to the language lesson, we went shopping for Easter outfits. I'm old school when it comes to new clothes (Easter, Christmas and beginning of the school year are mandatory new outfit time). Though the matching years are going out of the window. Turns out, everyone has his own fashion personality and it is not Mom's.

Neil is the true fashionist in our family. You should see that 6-year-old in a dressing room mirror.

He checks his front. He checks his back (Don't want that kindergarten butt to look fat.).

He does a couple poses. He has an imaginary conversation with someone.

Only then does he decide if the outfit passes the test.

This year Neil decided that he needed a hat for his Easter outfit. We are not talking a baseball hat (which is Jack's only definition of a hat). And we are not talking the caps his Pa likes to wear.

We are talking a true, rat-pack kind of hat.

After a day of shopping, Neil has two hats. He even convinced Dean and Jack that they needed hats.

Now my boys look like they are starting a ska band...

This is Neil at Legoland. He's not taking the hat off. I'll download one of the three of them soon.

Sunday education

We went out for lunch after church on Sunday . Just the four of us. I was sitting next to Neil and we were playing games to keep busy until the food arrived.

Neil kept pushing against my side. He was pushing and pushing and finally, I snapped. "Stop shoving against my boob!" I know, I know. Nice mothering I'm doing.

Neil looked at me, furrowed his brow as he figured, and then he asked, "How do you spell 'boob'? Is it b-o-b?"

"No. How do you make the oo sound?" Why resist a teaching moment, right?

"B-o-b spells Bob," Dean piped in.

Jack was too busy giggling to himself to offer any assistance.

"It's b-o-o-b!" Neil shouted. Great, it's a teaching moment for the whole restaurant.

And thus began a big boob discussion at our table. Some members of this family are still calling each other boobs...

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

They start so young

I worked the kindergarten spring party this morning. Woo hoo! I was in charge of the jellybean sorting and graphing table. (Sadly the jelly beans did not taste that good, even before the kids mauled them).

Everyone is being good and putting their green jelly beans in one pile, the pink ones in another pile, etc. Then they have to color blocks on the graphing page for each jelly bean (i.e., I have 6 green jelly beans, I color 6 blocks in the green row. Green is Neil's favorite color right now by the way.)

Two little boys start to argue over the blue/purple ones. "No it's purple." "No it's blue." I suggested they each decide for themselves and stop arguing.

"But they are arch enemies, Mom," Neil says.


"They are arch enemies," he repeats.

The boys look at me smiling and nodding.

"You are in kindergarten. You can't have an arch enemy yet..."

That's when at least 6 boys turn to me all saying, "I have an arch enemy..."

Kindergarten is not what it used to be.

Monday, March 30, 2009


I don't think I can post the whole video I made for Skip, but here's a cute photo of him when he was little...

Just write

Did you think I was held captive in the new Target? I wasn't. Just busy and lazy about writing...

And then I kept thinking that I need to come back with something spectacular to make amends for my neglect... But there is minimal spectacular in trips to Target, the Little League field and

I decided I should just write. So I'm writing...

Monday, March 16, 2009

Excuses, excuses

My apologies for not posting. When I'm not at the new Target, I am with visiting family. Sometimes I am with visiting family at the new Target.... Life is good.

My brother Skip, his wife Katie and my niece Emily are visiting. We've been playing a lot.

There's been paint. There's been cake. There's been trips to Target...

When I come back I'll post photos and go on and on about the movie I made for my bro's 40th... I know it's rude to boast, but I might be a genius...

Friday, March 06, 2009

Suburban oasis

It stands there gleaming on the hill. Shiny. New. Fully-stocked. A symbol of suburban perfection.

The sun shines brighter on it than anywhere else. Is that a halo I see?

It's been teasing us for months. It's red bulls-eye a homing beacon.

Minivan moms and SUV SAHMs have been circling its smoothly paved lot for weeks. Waiting. Waiting. We'd make eye contact from our oversized vehicles. Let us in!

We've admired the perfectly lined parking lot, the little grassy area with a bench, the convenient shopping cart return areas... Is that a Starbucks we see inside?

The sign on the door says "Opening March 8" but would it open early? Would the brand-new Target, just a 6 minute drive from my house, open early? Could I find designer products at reasonable rates? A new pair of sunglasses? Band-aids? More socks? Could I get all of this early and without a drive across town or to the Valley?

I was there on Monday... pretending to go to the Bed, Bath and Beyond that was open. But my minivan instinctively turned toward the Targay. It's like a magnet. I super-powered, high intensity, JPL kind of magnet...

A quick tour of the parking lot proved it was still not open. The Lowes tried to tempt me with its giant "Open" sign, but it held no appeal.

My sons have been teasing me that I'm getting ONLY Target gift cards for my birthday. I hope it's true.

And then yesterday... a friend had big news she had seen Judy Somebody with Target bags in her Suburban. Are those Target bags, my friend asked? New Target Target bags?

The new Target was open!!!! Hallelujah!! Hallelujah!!

Should we go now? We looked at the mass of kids around us? We mentally calculated the various practices, scout meetings and activities we had to shuttle them to... Target would have to wait.

But Dean met me at Neil's practice. And Jack was with his coach practicing pitching... And I had a minivan, no kids and $20 burning a hole in my pocket.

Whatever would I do? Sorry my friend. I can't wait. You are on your own...

The parking lot was packed. Word gets out fast.

I've waited so long. Don't let it be a nightmare!

I breathed a sigh of relief as I walked through those red-trimmed automatic doors. A little girl was singing a song, "New Target is open. New Target is open. New Target is open."

My heart skipped a beat.

The new carts glide with perfection. Every shelf glistens with new products relatively untouched. No knicks on the furniture, no wiped out shelves, no coffees left unattended on random shelves.

Eager cashiers waited with no lines. Managers walked around double checking everything. The coffee bar was fully staffed and stocked.

Employees were busy lining up products in uniformed rows, evenly spaced. Can I help you find something?

Oh, I've found it already.

Should I buy the Orla Kiely designer gear that the other Target is already sold out of?

Should I buy an untouched side table cube for the family room?

Thanks to Target, I served up Archer Farms tortilla chips in a beautiful new melamine bowl last night. The perfect accompaniment to taco night.

And when I told Neil that the new Target had opened. The six-year-old asked, "Did you cry?"


Thursday, March 05, 2009

Early to school

A week home sick has given Neil a new appreciation for school. He's up early, dressed within minutes. He has his backpack, lunch pail and sweatshirt lined up and ready to go. And each morning he asks me if he is going to school, just to make sure. He does not want to miss it.

Saturday, February 28, 2009

The greatest day EVER

The boys are curled up on the couch. Dad is slumped in a chair. And here I am.

Exhaustion has silenced us -- though we are all quietly proud of the marathon of youth sporting events that occurred today.

We are in the youth sports no-man's land zone: one sport hasn't ended, but another has begun.

Hello baseball! Scooch over basketball, gotta make room...

Jack woke up at 4 a.m. at the prospect of this day.

Neil and I left the house at 7:15 a.m. to make his 8 a.m. basketball game (gotta be there a half hour early, don'tcha know). It was his last game (several assists, some seriously good defense and a layup that was beautiful).

After basketball, we met Jack and Dean at the baseball field. Jack's game started at 9 a.m. Jack pitched three innings (9 strikeouts, and yes, I am bragging but I gave birth to him). Double A baseball is all about stealing. Lots and lots of stolen bases.

Jack's game ended at 11 a.m., just in time for Neil's end-of-the-basketball-season party. Pizza for everyone!

Neil got a pizza, trophy and some junk from the little vending machines. Life is good.

Then it was off to Neil's 1 p.m. baseball game (gotta be there a half hour early of course!). Rookie league is fun. It's machine-pitched baseball. I forgot how long Rookie games are... everyone bats, everyone goes around the bases, most innings are called because of the maximum number of runs per team... It takes a loooooong time.

But hey, we had time. Just enough time to run home, let the dogs out to run for a bit and get ready for Jack's 5 p.m. basketball game.

A good game of basketball too. You don't have to read this, but just for the Yerem family history books... Jack had three baskets, 4 assists and he was a defensive machine. He also took a shot right in the face, right to the brand new glasses on his face. Those of you who wear glasses can feel his pain. Those of you who have to pay for your kids' glasses can feel my pain. Mom had a minor heart attack. The sports goggles will be in next week.

And so ends the GREATEST SPORTS DAY EVER -- according to my sons...

Wednesday, February 25, 2009


Not bad for my first try, huh? It is actually the third or fourth, but my first finished try...  I think it actually looks like Neil.

I'm thinking this striped back ground and a black frame. Let's see how long that takes.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Something creative

OK. I did shop online. I bought these. I think they are going in the living room on a wall. We'll see how that turns out.

I did manage to yell at the kids. Does that count as "something creative"? I didn't think so either.

Today I'm working on silhouettes. Just like the kind your mom and dad bought of you at Disneyland so many years ago...

So far we are on version 3. The kids are getting a little annoyed with this project. 

Did I mention that Jack is home sick too?

Monday, February 23, 2009

Sick and Tired

Speaking in Facebook-ese:

JoAnn is tired of sick kids and rain.

Neil is out of school sick. He's had a fever on and off since Friday when I picked him up from school. He was whimpering and complaining of a headache when he got in the car... the rest is a long weekend on the couch with a sick kid on top of me.

We'll be going to the pediatrician shortly.

I need to do something besides sick-kid duty. This afternoon (somewhere before, after or during school pick up, practice drop off  for Jack and making dinner for everyone) something creative is going to happen. Don't know what it is, but it's gonna happen. 

Or maybe I'll just shop online...

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Vocabulary enrichment

Neil's new favorite word is "buttocks." Thank you iCarly. I appreciate it.

Neil loves the sound of it: "buttocks"-- "buuuuuttttocks"-- "buttoooooooocks"-- "buuuuttttttoooooccccckkksssss"

Try it. It is mildly entertaining.

Of course, for Neil it is massivly entertaining. I've caught him humming a little buttocks song as he plays a video game or as he's building a LEGO thingy.

I've even heard him sitting a Clone on another Star Wars-related character and saying, "How do you like my buttocks?"

The junior high years are going to be very long and very painful for mom.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Actually stay-at-home momming

Video games, forts, dart guns, Legos and freshly baked cookies are happening at my house today.

No practices. No school work. No fundraising panic.

Just pajama day.

Sunday, February 08, 2009

Stressed out

Rain postponed the school Tri-R-athon on Friday so we'll be Reading, Running and 'Rithmaticking tomorrow morning...

I'd like it to be over. Will it rain? Will it snow? Will we raise any money? 

The economy stinks, the event got postponed, the principal will be off campus for a meeting... will the whole thing fall apart?

Not that I'm panicking ahead of time...

Friday, February 06, 2009

Call me Steven Spielberg

I made a movie today. That's what happens when you upgrade your Mac and actually take a workshop so you know how to use the software.

I'm crazy like that.

See when I first got my Mac, I played and played and hobbled my way through the programs. Macs are pretty easy and you can sort of figure it out.

But it seemed each time I made a slideshow or a dvd, I did it a slightly different way. I was just guessing each time.

So I signed up for a class -- which was yesterday. Today I made a movie of Neil's t-ball experience last spring. I even made myself cry. He is awfully cute and awfully little. And now he is the star of his own movie.

It's amazing what a little bit of information will do for you. 

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

800 Ring Pops

It takes approximately 19 minutes to purchase, pay for and load 800 Ring Pops from a big box store into your minivan. And it only cost $191.20. It seems like 800 of anything for that amount of money is reasonable.
Why do I need 800 Ring Pops, you ask?

I have a serious addiction to them, and I don't want to run out. I have a special closet filled with them. It's temperature-controlled.

Not really. But you knew that. The special closet is reserved for coffee and chocolate.

The Tri-R-athon is coming. R you ready? I'm not, but I'm getting there. There will be Reading, Running and 'Rithmatic-ing on Friday -- all in the name of raising money for P.E., computer and music education at the kids' school.

That is -- of course -- if there is not the torrential downpour predicted... Please let the weathermen/women/whatever be wrong. Please let the Doppler 7000 not have anything to share. Please let it hold off until 3 p.m. on Friday. I'm sorry if it ruins your weekend plans, but I have a fundraiser to run here.

Every kid gets a Ring Pop if they turn in a pledge form and funds for the fundraiser. It's amazing how hard kids will work for a Ring Pop. If I were going to deal something to children, it would not be drugs. It would be Ring Pops and Nerds Ropes...

Ring Pops garner a great deal of attention. I was almost mugged in the lower grades when kids saw me delivering Ring Pops to their classrooms. Suddenly they wanted to know what they had to do to get one. Suddenly they had heard of the Tri-R-athon.

Visual motivation is good.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Put down the scissors

Best moment working in the kindergarten class yesterday:

During a discussion of baby penguins and how they hatch from eggs, one little boy informed the class that "all babies come from seaweed." The teacher paused.... where to go with that one...

"My dad says you need seaweed to make babies..." the little boy repeated.

Teacher was not gonna go there.

Worst moment:

When the teacher tells me my son has used his child-safe scissors to cut the shirt on the little girl who sits next to him. Apparently she turned around and he went to work... She didn't even know until her mom saw it at home. Great.

Cutting is big with the K-boys. There's been pants, t-shirts and various degrees of cutting going on. Nice of Neil to kick it up a notch and help the girl next to him. Thankfully, her mother was kind and gracious and accepted our apologies.

But now my kid is the one who cut so-and-so's shirt in kindergarten... he's a keeper.

Thursday, January 22, 2009


I've been hunkered down with inauguration coverage. I TiVo'd one channel. Watched another channel. Stayed up too late watching inaugural balls. Watched parts again. Watched Daily Shows and various analysis. And now I'm kind of burnt out.

Can you tell Dean was out of town?

Friday, January 16, 2009

Neil shares his lunch

It's never good when the school office calls your cell phone.

It's worse when you get there and you see the custodian heading out of the office and he's wearing haz-mat gloves and carrying a bag of towels headed to the trash.

Oh please don't let that be my kid, I pray silently.

But you know it was my kid, right? He threw up all over the office. There was the lovely sent of hard-core sanitizer as I got to the front of the office.

Neil was wrapped up in a beach towel. His clothes were still on but were covered in orange bits and various other items from his stomach.

"I threw up." Really?

"Twice." Great.

Do I bring scented candles on Monday as a proper sorry-my-kid-threw-up-where-you-work gift?

On the way home Neil tells me he earned a Caught-Being-Good (It's a little ticket school staff hands out when kids are doing what they are supposed to be doing or if they go above that. The tickets go into a bin and at the end of the month names are drawn for prizes. One of the prizes is In-N-Out gift certificates. My kids will do most anything for those.).

Neil is really proud of that Caught-Being-Good. 

And what did he do to earn it?

"I was eating healthy. I ate all my carrots, as fast as I could. I wanted to be the first to get the Caught-Being-Good from the lunch lady," Neil explained.

Would those be the orange bits he just hurled all over the office?

Monday, January 12, 2009

I'm just saying...

There are many things I do that make me a sub par parent. One of the latest is that I let the kids watch the SNL skit with Peyton Manning "helping" children. You can see it here.

The boys have been giggling about parts of the skit for days (when he banishes the kid to the port-a-potty may be their top pick, but they also like when he pegs kids with the football).

So this morning as Jack was getting ready for school, I threw out, "I'd kill a snitch. I'm not saying I have, but I'm not saying I haven't. I'm just saying..." (You have to watch the video)

For just a moment, Jack paused. Has she really killed a snitch? What is a snitch?

And then he laughed nervously... Mom wouldn't really kill a snitch, right?

I'm comfortable with that level of fear in my children.

Friday, January 09, 2009

Ice skating

I took the kids ice skating with friends today. I gave Jack the camera and told him to video Neil as he made his way around the rink. As you will see he took his job very seriously ...

Thursday, January 08, 2009


Last night I went to dinner with a friend. We had a great time at a good divey kind of bar with great burgers and available libations. 

Somehow we started talking about crushes we had as girls (This was after we made each other cry about favorite dogs who had died. What were we doing?!).

My friend grew up in Nebraska but always knew she would end up in California because she and David Cassidy were going to get married some day (to her credit, she did get the California part right). 

I loved Randolph Mantooth. Yes, Johnny Gage from "Emergency 51." I don't think I was thinking marriage... I'm trying to recall...

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

My Dad

My Dad LOVES dominoes. We were trapped into games as children. He'd bring them to the pizza parlor. He'd beg us to play with him at home. But we were his children... biological law requires us NOT to play dominoes with him until we are older and realize it's a good way to spend time together...

But my boys think dominoes is awesome. They keep score. They know the lingo (It's like a prison yard when a game is going on ...). They even have nicknames when they play.

Jack is "Action Jackson."

Neil is "Neil the real deal."

My creative sons gave Pa the nickname "The Pa."

Listening to them hoot and holler and smack talk each other through a game of dominoes is one of the best things my Dad does for me.

Monday, January 05, 2009

Snow Day

We bundled up the kids and packed up the van for a snow day in Wrightwood today. Friends had visited on Friday and had a great time.

Well, there's been a lot of sunshine and warm weather since Friday... and the tubing area at Mountain High is closed during the week.

So let's just say, unless you are going to the resort where they are making fresh powder every day, you should expect a lot of ice. 

We found a lot of ice. Our first stop was a camping area near Mountain High. It looked beautiful and we had the place to ourselves (should that have been a clue?). Dean and Neil hopped on our sled known as "The Torpedo" and started down what looked like a small to average incline...

They didn't stop. They picked up speed. They were rocketing down the mountainside -- until they found the pit of mud.

This ride ended with Dean and Neil rolling violently into the mud pit. That's when Neil started crying and screaming, "My face! My face!"

Good times. Good times.

Neil is fine. Just some gravel marks on his face. Poor kid. Dean ripped his jeans and might need a hip replacement. Sadly, I didn't get it on video.

We left that area... It was bad mojo if nothing else.

We drove further up Highway 2, investigating more spots. We finally settled on a spot that had a thrill-a-minute kind of ride, but also had the let's-go-a-little-slower-and-not-scar-any-more-family-members area too.

The kids had a blast. Lots of sledding. The "snow" was a little too like ice for a good snowman or snowball fight, but there is always next time.

Sunday, January 04, 2009


So a friend on Facebook suggested that instead of resolutions people should pick a word for 2009.  I've been mulling the idea.

What would be my word? No jokes please about my over-use of the word "crap" or how many times I ask, "Seriously?"

I want a real word. Well, they are all real words but I'd like a real good word.

Could I live by a word for a whole year? Could one word cross into all aspects of my life?

Nurture, inquire, learn, listen, scofflaw, hunker (as in hunker down) ... there are lots of good words out there. 

What word would you live by for the next year?

I'm choosing "strong." I like the idea of working on strength -- physical, mental and spiritual strength... There's strength of character, strong convictions, strong-arming ...

It could be a great year. 

Saturday, January 03, 2009

This one is for Emily

Emily is our cousin in Florida and we miss her.

Friday, January 02, 2009

Yukon Cornelius

This is Dean and Neil in costume for the church's Christmas program ("A Christian Carol"). Check out that beard. Dean started to grow it while in the hospital and has kept it up since. I think he is enjoying playing with it. I'm not sure how I feel about it... 

I suspect he would like to be just like Yukon Cornelius and will be searching for peppermint finds in no time.

Thursday, January 01, 2009


This one is for Jane so she knows she has the right site. It's just a photo.

Stop with the video!

So here's Jack and Neil forced to say nice things to relatives.  Actually, they love their relatives, they HATE being forced on video...

And after Jack trips on the skim board, you can make out crying in the background. He hurt his knee, but Mom knew she wouldn't get them to do the video again so she ignored her injured child. He has ice on it now...

Silent Night by Neil

Jack and Neil were going to say something for their relatives in Atlanta, but then Neil broke into a very stylized version of Silent Night. My apologies I didn't have the camera going when he started.

Sing on little man

So be prepared. I'm uploading video. This one is of Neil singing "I'm gettin' 'Nuttin for Christmas." Thank you kindergarten program. I cannot get this out of my head.