Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Congratulations Dartmouth Woman of the Year!!!


My friend Liz Olimpio is bestowed this wonderful honor!

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

The Crane and I



So, I'm married to a civil engineer. I do know, deep down inside, that he loves to play in the dirt and he spends most of his time, work and free, outside. Usually in jeans that by the end of the week, can stand up on their own. He continues what I can only imagine is his boyhood dream of playing with Tonka trucks in a sand box. But this time, Big Bear, California is his sand box.

He's been building this really cool bridge for the last couple of years. I like it because it means we can stay in a nice cabin on the weekends and go boating.

But I'm all about trying to be engaging and understanding what makes the man I've been married to for almost two decades tick. So I climbed the crane.

This wasn't just any crane, folks, this was a HUGE crane that he had to wrestle to get special permits for and have assembled up on the mountain top. It moves big pieces of bridge around and it's really massive. And tall. People stop on the side of the current bridge and take pictures of this crane. I've never felt the urge, but that doesn't mean I didn't respect the crane.





So when hubby asked if I wanted to go on top of said crane, I thought, "sure, why not?" Now, I am a pretty logical person, but there are a few things that kind of stand my hair on end. One is the dentist. But, no dentists operate cranes (that I know of) so I was safe on that count. The other is heights. Which is oxymoronish because I'm kind of tall. But I'm all for self preservation and the understanding that our bodies have adapted to keep us alive, so when my mind is screaming at me 'THIS IS REALLY HIGH! STEP AWAY FROM THE WAIST HIGH SAFETY BAR!' I tend to listen, if you know what I mean. Hubby - braver than me, as you can see by this picture:


Yes, these are my feet and it was really hard to look down.

Does the word "matchbox" come to mind here, or what?
Okay, I'll be honest. I thought I'd ask what I should wear to the crane visit. I was thinking maybe some nice tennies or flats. Something reptilian deep down inside that was all self preservationish told me to choose the super heavy hiking boots instead. The ones my husband gets all wistful about and measures for crampons every now and then. That's when I remind him I birthed him three boys so they could go snow camping with him and I could stay home at the spa.
This picture over here is the rabbit hole we emerged from after climbing about 500 little tiny yellow metal ladder steps. For some reason, I thought perhaps we would have a cute little bucket elevator take us to the top of the crane. Nope. We had to climb. Which meant focusing on the rung in front of me and not on the wrungs above or below. For about half an hour each way.
See this guy? This is the crane operator. This man climbs this crane EVERY SINGLE DAY. He spends his day in that crane. He has an iPOD, pics of the fam, about 500 bottles of gatorade and a bucket (if you know what I mean.) He sits there, nothing between him and 100 feet of airspace except for some safety plastic all day, five days a week. Wowza. And you know what? He was really nice and sane. Not what I expected from someone who sits 100 feet above the earth for hours on end and moves big pieces of stuff around all day. He used to be a marine. I think you need marine training to do that job.

Okay, so I told you that there was no elevator. Now, let me tell you what else: there was no clear path to the crane. We had to pick and choose our footing very carefully. It reminded me of hiking in the Sierras on a snow field where I had to tread in hubby's footsteps or incur instant death from dropping between boulders that held nothing but pretty snow,.. and air. Did I mention I was expecting a path?
So, yes, this is kind of an 'expose on cranes.' They are not for the suburban. Like me.
We had to figure out where to walk between ice patchs, a field of rebar, and large pieces of sharp things laying hither and thither. No path.
But, I made it! I ventured out onto the boom. I even allowed the crane operator to move the boom, while I was standing on it. I didn't make it to the crow's nest. I had my child's doctor's appointment to go to. Thank God for small favors.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Black Fridays and White Oatmeal

I did it. I braved black Friday. But I did it in a sort of cowardly way. I didn't venture out until about 6:30a.m. By then the crowds had cleared. When you open at 12:01 that morning, showing up six and a half hours later made me feel like every kind of non-achiever.

Because I was lazy (by black Friday standards) I didn't score the amazing deals I thought I would, but I did score most of my Christmas shopping done. In a mere six and a half hours. (hmmm,.. a theme seems to be happening here,.) I ransacked six stores with merely an eggnog latte to keep me going. I said "no thank you" to the electronics departments at both Target and Toys R Us that still had two hour lines when I showed up.

My last stop was Costco, to stock up for a party we were hosting the next day. Plus hubby had requested some stuff for work, that I quickly forgot. So I had to call the house to figure out what it was my better half was counting on me getting for him. Of course, no one answers the house phone. I was desperately calling all the numbers on my list that belong to some semblance of a family member. My last resort was my boy with a broken leg, who of course, answered the phone. (what else does he have to do, really?)

"Where's dad?" I ask.

"Outside on the rowing machine," he answers.

Hmm,.,. conundrum in a question wrapped inside a mystery - how do I get my question answered? I am desperate."Can you ask K to ask dad what it was he wanted at Costco?"

"Sure." Muffled yelling and threatening and gnashing of teeth. Sound of sliding glass door being opened and thrown shut. I assume the 9 year old has been dispatched on his mission. (A loaf of bread, milk, and some budddah,..)

K comes back and I hear muffled conversation. The broken legged boy gets on the phone. "Shrimp and white oatmeal."

Huh? I've been married to the man for 18 years and I've never known him to want to bring shrimp to work, nor to I have a clue as to what the heck white oatmeal is. Organic, they have. No white. I hate to do it, but I ask anyway, "Big J, can you pleeeeezzzeee go outside and ask daddy again what it is he wants me to get him at Costco?"

I hear a sigh, some metal clanking (which I assume is the phone firmly gripped next to a crutch) and then hopping. Sliding glass door opening. Hopping. Sliding glass door closing. Hopping. Muffled voices. "White tuna and instant oatmeal."

Yes, that makes sense. I promptly hung up on the child; I couldn't stand the sound of more hopping.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Mr. Skeeter's Holiday


We lost a rat the other day. Actually, it was an evening. Usually, Skeeter the boy rat pounds on the top of his cage until the screen opens and then he hops on over to visit the other rat in a cage. Who happens to be female. Trying to figure out how to get into her cage is enough to keep him thoroughly engaged until the early morning, when I get up and pass by the cages, realize there is a rat missing out of one of them, notice the free rat, and shoo him back into his cage.


Of course, the morning of the day I'm hosting a party, the rat isn't in his cage. He's not trying to chew his way into the girl rat's cage. There isn't a rat anywhere.


Now, here is the conundrum of friendship and honesty: do I 'fess up and tell my friends there is an errant, rabid rat traipsing around my house (guard your children!) or, do I "forget" the rat has escaped and keep the truth to myself. I did mention the escapee rat. Kind of like oh-the-food-is-in-the-kitchen-and-drinks-are-in-the-cooler-did-I-mention-we-have-a-rat-loose? kind of a way.


The next morning I woke up to find toilet paper strewn from our master bathroom to under the chaise loungechair next to bed. Either we had a poltergiest, or Skeeter had paid me a visit during the ngiht. Not really sure which one is more disturbing.


Later that day, the five children were dispatched upstairs with a large flashlight, strict instructions to find the rat and then locked into the rooms until the rat was found. Thankfully, they found Skeeter.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Forget Oprah, here are some of my favorite things,..

Yep, it's the time of the year - we are all stretching our wallets and our legs getting ready for Black Friday. Or flexing fingers and waiting in anticipation for Cyber Monday.


I'm always on the look out for something unique for the holidays. Even better is if I happen to know the creative person who made such a wonderful gift - I feel like it makes me a better person. I'm all about basking in reflective light.


Here are a few interesting gifts for you to ponder:

1. Mamba Point by Kurtis Scalleta


Fiction for young adults. I knew Kurtis when I lived in Monrovia, Liberia. I'll be honest, we didn't hang in the same crowd. But, he's now a fellow writer with at least two great books under his belt - what is not to love? And this one takes place in Liberia. You gotta love it. Check it out.


2. Chaos Cove by Leslie Downie - this is a friend of mine at work. Her first book - and our department (fellow writers) is so proud. Makes a better present than say, downloading one of my Best Practice series on Imagery, if you know what I mean. This is another tweener book. Just got my signed copy and can't wait to read it,..










3. And of course, my friend Father Edward Beck - he's got a few books, all great reads, as well as hosting a spirituality show with Chris Cuomo on ABC. Perfect for the holidays! He's the only person I would agree to accompany to a five star Bel Air restaurant,.. with five children.










4. I recently reviewed another book that I think would make a great stocking stuffer along the same lines as Father Beck's book - "Why God Matters".


5. Tired of reading and need something to do? Since I have a bunch of boys in my house (four of them aged 9 - 42), a rusted 1959 Chevy, a leaking water heater and the vision to transform the garage,.. in my garage,.. I thought this was interesting and a great price:




Seriously? The only time you will see me enter Home Depot is during the holidays because my hubby has a fetish for power tools and office supplies. (that's that other Depot - both leave me with eyes rolled back in head, frothing at mouth.) But really? $20 for some good quality tools? That leaves some serious cash laying around for that trip to Nordstrom after the holidays, cleverly disguised as the "Half Yearly Men's Sale." Thanks Nordies, for having my back.

***Bonus ***

And you need toonage,.. so please check out this awesome fusion funky jazz from this German band - I was honored to sing in choir with Pat Appleton when I attended highschool in Liberia, the very talented leading lady of this popular European group DePhazz. I love her even if most of the time she is facebooking in german,...

And we must not forget my new favorite friend, Chickee and her awesome jewelry made from vintage items - chandeliers, spoons, type writer keys,.. she's amazing. Her business is called Lizzy B's Vintage Found Jewelry. Visit her online store or Facebook page, but better yet, email her and discuss a one of a kind item she can make for your loved ones.

That's all my sage shopping advice for now, folks. Happy Black Friday, early!

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Who's Kid is That?

Sorry I haven't posted in a while - lots of serious stuff going on - deaths and sicknesses and kids with broken limbs. Not too much to poke fun at, but we're coming out of that, don't worry. There is always a laugh at the end of the tunnel.

Halloween was a fantabulous time, even if the 13 year old fractured his femur the day before. He has some nice friends - they came and hung out with him even though he couldn't limp very far. He was just new to his crutches ("crunches" as his four year old sister calls them.) so he hadn't built up the speed or agility for limping door-to-door swinging a pillow case full of candy for a long period of time. What was worse was the fact that he had on a banana costume - so everyone just thought his crutches were props.

The girls had it all figured out this year and I can see a glimmer of hope that soon - maybe even next year - I will be meandering at the sidewalk while they take themselves to the door to trick or treat. I might not even have to yell "did you say thank you?" from the street.

And hat's off to my good friend - who is still able to dress her entire family in a theme - including her husband!!! So she and her two cutie girls were flowers and her husband was a bee. Ehem. Wasp. Macho wasp. My favorite quote of the evening was listening him explain to everyone who commented on his great costume that "Oh, I'm not a bee! Actually, I'm a wasp,.." Righttt,...

I guess my other friend dressed her husband up as a care bear. I'm still waiting for the blackmail pictures. I love having friend with cajones, and I'm not talkin' about the guys,..

We are now in the holiday tempest - frosted sugar cookies in the shapes of leaves have been baked and we're collecting baking items for the rest of the holiday fare - fudge, santa cookies, candy cane cookies, Chex mix,.. Oi.

Before this week of relaxation (made doubly relaxing because I have no desire to drag five kids including one on crutches anywhere besides the required physical therapy sessions) we had parent teacher conferences. I thought elementary conferences were tough enough - but middle school is so far taking the cake. (Can't wait for high school).

Parents hadwer all week, Monday through Friday, to hoof it to the middle school and meet with the teachers, who were set up at tables in the library and gym, and get the low down on their seventh or eighth grader. It's set up like speed dating, complete with a rating (A - F) at the end.

Sounds quick and easy, right? Wrong. It took me two afternoons and a total of 2 1/2 hours to talk to all my 13 year old's teachers. The kid is great; just ask his teachers. After they all had the same thing to say to me - "He's so polite," "He's so contientious," "He's one of my favorites, such a delight in class". All I could do was double check their roster - did they have the correct child?

Because that's not the creature that barrels through my doors at 2:20pm every weekday afternoon. Wow.

And instead of me telling the teachers all about my beloved babes - "He's shy," "She loves to read" etc,... They were telling me things: "I think it's great that J wants to be an engineer!" (He does?) How can someone spend so much time with a person and not even know them? Teenagers are definitely a new experience. Lord, give me strength.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Book Tour: Why God Matters

Well, I messed up. I was supposed to do this book review last week, but life got in the way. I lost a friend. And worse than that, my friend left behind a beautiful wife, (also a friend of mine), and four wonderful children. Loss is hard. Trying to understand loss and death and why things happen is difficult, if not incomprehensible. Like my previous post about the dead cat, we all must realize that bad things happen, yes, even to good people. Life is hard.

That is why (I apologize now for the shoddy segue) books like Why God Matters: How to Recognize Him in Daily Life are so beautiful. This is a very short and easy book to read. Some may argue that it is in fact, too simple. But I think that faith is simple. Really, all it takes is to give everything to Him. That's pretty simple. But we humans seem to make things very complicated. I am definitely someone who has done this.

Sitting in Mass this morning, I had the honor to listen to a homily from a Deacon who works with the LA Diocese Missions. He has travelled the world, bringing his family to East Africa a couple decades ago, and most recently, visiting Haiti, where a diet staple is literally, a mud cake.

He reminded us that everything we have is a gift. And it can be taken away at any time. So, instead of fretting, we should enjoy our lives. And thank Him for what we have, as little as it is, as small as it is, as short in time as it may be. To not dwell in what should have been, but to be thankful for what we have, or had. And to go on living and giving to others.

These reminders are reflected in Karina Lumbert Fabian and Deacon Steve Lumbert's book. The fact that the author was born into the faith but her father was not, gives this book depth that makes it identifiable to many. I love hearing conversion stories, but as a cradle Catholic myself, I have to live with the fact that my faith lies in the mundane; I've never had a major 'ah ha' moment as a Catholic Christian; I've just always had to rely on the little bits and blurps of life and the small signs that God is present. God is in the mustard seed, not in the fireworks at the 4th of July, but as a narcisstic human, I'd like some fireworks now and then. It's nice to have a simple book bring me off my high horse and remind me that faith takes work, patience, and prayer.

As a practicing Catholic, I enjoy reading books from other Catholics' perspectives on how to incorporate faith into daily life. That is another reason why this book works; Catholicism, for all its beatiful pagentry and traditions, leaves many outside of the faith thinking that Catholicism is shrouded in mystery and hard to understand. But, we are ordinary people too, as this book exemplifies.

I would love to attend a bible study, I would love to attend a daily Mass. But the circumstance of my life make it not so. I would love to pull out my Bible and read a scripture or two each night, but I haven't quite acheived this, either. I should really read the daily Mass, or the Magnificat, but I'll be honest, I'm not too great at those either. This book is a quick read, especially if done a chapter a day for some reflection. This was a nice way to spend some time reflecting on my faith, remembering why I think there is a God, and realizing that I must continue to live in the Christian spirit.

It's nice to rely on some one else's rudder once and a while and see if you too, can steer yourself on the right path. I recommend this book to anyone needing a little nudge now and then, a reminder of what we espouse as Christians, whether Catholic or not.

As one of the speakers said to my beautiful friend during the funeral of her beloved husband and father to her children. He leaned on the podium and spoke into the microphone: "Look around you," he said to her as he pointed to the enormous crowd of friends that had gathered to pay their respects and show their support to the family. "You will be okay."

And, that is how faith works. To give it all up and realize that even in the darkest moment, He is with you and supporting you. It's in the faces of those around you. We are all loved.




Have a wonderful Sunday.


.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Newsflash: Cats Do Not Have Nine Lives!

** disclaimer: this story is sad. Even if you don't like cats.****

I had an AWESOME day the other day. The stars aligned and both family and work life totally rocked.

The fact that my colleague who was editing an article of mine told me "Don't look at my edits today, you're having a great day" (you know who you are) as I left for work, the 2 year old had crazy scary dreams that night and ended up kicking me in my bed for three hours, and the fact that both the dog and the 4 year old missed their respective toilets in the morning, wasn't enough of a sign of impending doom. I was still in a fantastic mood as I scrubbed carpets and matresses with the carpet shampooer wearing my fancy, have-to-be-around-adults-clothes.

On my way to work, going 50 (allowable on this road, trust me) with a slew of cars behind me, a kitty makes like a bullet train and runs right in front of my car. Cat - 0, Suburban - 1.

The only other time I've hit a living creature with the car was in Michigan when one of my uncles was trying to teach me how to drive. I whacked a pheasant. He was mad mostly because I decimated the creature so much so, that there was nothing to save. (aka, roasted pheasant). I come from hunting stock, that's really not as crazy as it sounds.

I hit cat. I know by the sound that there is no way that cat survived. I slow down, however and start to go to the side of the road. This is when I see a car pull over next to the flat cat through my rearview mirror.

I'll be honest. I'm starting to panic now, mostly by the litigious state of our state. People here in So Cal cut you no slack - I am a pariah in the neighborhood for the simple fact that I have large dogs (instead of little yappy ones) and five kids, instead of say, the popular 1.7. We are a large, loud, sometimes messy group. I'm thinking to myself 'this man is totally going to chew me out.' I'm also thinking if I leave now, he'll probably write down my license plate number and will either a) report me to the police b) find out my address somehow and stalk me c) resort to a voodoo doll, and as we can see from the first couple of paragraphs, I do not need any help in the bad vibe department.

What do I do whenever I'm in a panic and don't want to talk to mean strangers? I call hubby. Who is at work dealing with far bigger issues than a dead cat. I'm sure he was more exasperated than he sounded over the phone.

"What do I do?" I whisper. (I'm already whispering, thinking the mean guy can somehow hear me 50 yards away while I'm sitting in a metal box.)

"Well, there's nothing you can do,.."

"(high pitched whine from me) OMGOSH! He's picking up the cat and he's driving over here! Now what do I do???"

Exasperation finally flows through the phone: "I don't know! Act sad! I gotta go,..."

So, I compose myself as the man pulls up next to me on the side of the road and gets out. I roll down my window. He leans in.

"There was nothing you could have done."

Wha? "I'm so sorry,.."

"Really, it's okay."

I'm calming down since obviously this person isn't going to flog me for catslaughter on the way to work.

"Is it,.. dead?"

"Yes."

Then I remember seeing through my rearview mirror that the man got out of his car and picked up the cat. Now I'm starting to worry about my own person safety since in my book, that is not normal behavior.

Uhm,.. did you take the cat?!?"

"No, I just picked it up and moved it to the side of the road."

This is when I notice the man is wearing scrubs with cartoon cats all over them.

"OMGOSH, do you work at a vet clinic?" I ask. At this point I'm feeling a little delirious - this is getting a bit weird.

"No, I work at the local hospital. But my wife and I have run a cat rescue out of house for decades. Well, thanks for stopping" he says as he walks back to his car and drives off.

At this point, I'm wondering what this all means. How bizarre is it, really, that I kill a cat and the witness is a cat rescuer wearing kitties on his shirt?

I'm thinking maybe God (who knows I take everything very personally) is saying "Look, stuff happens. You can't be held responsible for everything. And in case you don't believe me, I'll send this cat rescuer to tell you it wasn't your fault. And if you're still too blond and polish to understand that, I'll include a visual - cat scrubs - so you really get the point. Have a nice day."

That's my story and I'm sticking to it.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Look honey - I need an iPAD for educational purposes!


Seriously, I am lucky to work for probably one of the world's best companies. (I know many of you are gagging right now, for the overt brown nosing).
Anyway, recently, the company, Esri, released a very cool application for iPhone and iPad devices. This blog is written with teaching kids in mind, but anyone can use it and it's a cool little step through. So, put down that Facebook application you are all addicted to and try this one out for fun!

Friday, August 20, 2010

Groceries!

I can't help myself. I'm just infatuated with the horrible state of eating in this country. Check out this recent Time magazine article. 27% of Americans are obese? We eat 220 lbs. per year of meat? 14% of Americans only eat the recommend five servings of fruits and vegetables per day?

Gads, people. Instead of wallowing in our access, why can't we be green about our eating? Maybe have that card-deck sized peice of chicken with dinner instead of a 16 oz. steak?

This and living overseas where people eat so many more grains, fruits and veggies really makes me be aware of eating behaviors I'm modeling for my children. Rice and beans are a complete protein. Quinoa, a fancy new popular seed, is also packed with protein. Avacodoes - probably one of nature's most perfect food, especially when combined with some garlic salt, my friend's chili sauce and accompanied by a crisp tortilla chip.

I'm not a perfect eater and my size is evident of that - I can stand to loose a good 20 el bees,.. and I'm trying, but I'm not going to give up beer to do it. I don't care if beer is a carb.

So, anyway, besides this whole crazy food problem this country has, and some of my friends taking me to task on my grocery bill, I'm going to try and lay it on the line. It's possible to eat healthily and not break the bank!

Okay - this week I spent more than usual since I bought brautwurst and homemade pretzel's at the local German deli and did some 'investment' shopping. I spent $30ish at the Deli, $29 at the local food coop and then $109 at the local grocer for the week.

Now, the Deli accounts for almost half my usual grocery bill spending - so that was a splurge! But worth it, lemme tell you.

The food coop - this week we took home the small box of organic fruits and veggies, some figs, a watermelon, and blueberries. I don't always go to the coop - this weekend, I'm too busy to even think about the hour it takes me to go there, pick up and come back, even if I save time by shopping online. And some weeks, the boxes (the cheapest way to get fresh produce) has stuff I don't care for - for example, I've never met a radish I liked.

And I don't always buy healthy. But then again, I don't think a box of Cocoa Puffs ever killed anyone. This week's investment shopping included the healthy stuff like grapes for $79/pound, cantelope each for $1 (good, since I had to bring a fruit platter to preschool), frozen veggies for 1.25 for a bag, no sugar kid's applesauce for lunches at 1.50 each (usually 2.99 each) - I bought 6 of them - Progresso Minestrone soups (again, 6 cans) at .49 instead of the usual $2.49 (and trust me, we won't be eating these anytime soon in this 100 degree weather), but the other stuff - Cookie Crisp cereal for .99 and Lucky Charms for 1.99 instead of the usual 3.99. Keebler chips cookies for 1.49 instead of the usual 4.49. Yogurts - Danimals, Fiber One and YoPlus - all 4 counts for only $1.00 each. And totally gross? Fruit Gushers becaue they were only .24 each (Instead of the usual 2.99) and while the kids love the things, I can't stand them. I can't say the same for the M&M's I bought (buy two, get one free) for "cooking purposes." Yeah, right. I got FiberOne Bars for free. Groceries that should have cost me $233 were only $109. And so it goes.

I did buy milk, but no meat this week. Because we are in football season we have the forced luxury of slow cooked meals - which means purchasing that less expensive cut of meat that needs to be simmered forever to make it gnawable - stews, roasts, pulled porks and the like. Chicken soup with only two chicken breasts. (note to self - stop using whole wheat pasta - it doesn't hold up. No wonder my smart Grandma only used egg noodles.).

I bought a $10 waffle maker at Target and make waffles most every morning. I do splurge on real maple syrup. Instead of the fake stuff made in a lab, the real stuff has good benefits for you. Which I didn't appreciate as a kid spending time at my Grandparent's house and their 100s of acres of maple trees,.. I was sick of that maple flavor for a long time. Now, what I'd give for a handpacked box of that syrup! Honey, too is a good deal - a spoonful for kids who are coughing; as a sweetener for other times.

I hope this starts a discussion - I'm so interested in others' successes with grocery shopping and feeding families. Please share!

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Virtual Book Tour!

So, I've done something distinctly terrifying and signed up for a virtual book tour! Check it out - I'm actually listed, which means I have a deadline, which means I have to actually do something. Like read. Spruce this place up. We'll be having visitors, ya'll. I might have to spell check every now and again. Link to more recent stuff I've written. Clean the dead links off my sidebar. Maybe put on a new template (does this one make me look fat?)

I haven't read the book yet, it's not out yet. I'm getting it unbound in the mail from the publisher. I'm excited. As you should know, I'm a big fan of others who write in this type of book - Father Edward Beck and his buddy Anne Lamott.

But really - do you think the powers that be at Catholic Blogger have actually read my blog? Because I'm feeling a little insecure in my current company,...

Well, here's to being Catholic realist! Cheers to my blog!

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Dinner with no pants

That about describes it, yes, it does. What dinner is like in this household now that football is in full swing.

Hubby and I like to watch our three boys practice during their Junior All American Football practices and since there are three of them on three different fields, the time goes fast. Even though we are in some semblance on that field for the five nights they are practicing, never does one son ever feel like we are there enough.

That is really pointed out to me every time I go over to watch the 9 year old play - it's as though he's always watching out of the corner of his eye to see if a parent cares enough to spend some time visiting his practice. He always waves, no matter where he is - in the middle of a huddle, supposedly listening to the coach, running. Always looking and hoping mom and dad will come and make him the most important kid for a few minutes.

So, there are a lot of adjustments that have to be made to the running of the household to watch practices - and we are by no means 'helicopter parents.' I feel like hubby and I are in a relay race most nights.

First, it's trying to maintain our health just to keep up with the kids. Since school started, I've been shut out of any morning exercise classes at my gym. The girls are really too heavy for that jogging stroller. That leaves night time to either run forever or go on the Concept 2 rowing machine aka torture device. Hubby and I take turns working out, packing supplies and driving boys to practice.

Girls are entertained at the field by other little kids, the snack bar and two fully packed back packs. We pack lunch boxes with a semblance of healthy food since dinner isn't eaten until 8:30 at night.

Dinners are prepared in crockpots, rice cookers, and bread machines. Or a bag of prepared salad is tossed on the table with a Costco sized bottle of ranch and dinner is announced.

There is a revolving mass around the table of sweating, stinky socked boys flinging uniforms off, taking turns in showers and shoving food in their mouths. Little girls singing at the top of their lungs from the sugar high of the redvines purchased 10 for $1 from the snack bar, or the cute little girls I can't say no to, hawking M&Ms to pay for their travel soccer teams.

Last night I didn't realize that the nine year old was wearing a shirt and absolutely nothing else to the dinner table until he bent over to put his plate in the dishwasher. I'd really prefer to eat my meals with people who wear pants.

Then, the middle one asks for juice and the older one responds that he "can't have any because it's only for kids who weren't adopted." Brotherly love.

We finally wrestle wringling children into bed by 9:30, make sure dogs have water, pay bills, clean up the kitchen, start another load in the wash. I have about 5 minutes to do something relaxing, like attempt to read my book, before I just throw in the towel and go into blissful sleep until the next morning at 4am for hubby and 5am for me, when our days start and the preparation for football practice looms on the horizon.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Shop and Eat Locally

This is turning into a foodfest, eh?

I finally had the chance to watch the movie Food, Inc. that everyone is raving about. I've read both the authors who were interviewed and love both their books. I truly believe in eating fresh, simple ingredients for healthier living. I've felt this way a long time, maybe it's because of the different countries I've lived in. I did indulge in my $7.00/box poptarts once in a while in Egypt, but sustained myself and my family by making friends with and shopping at the local markets. (so much so, in fact that when my parents came to visit, the fruit and vegetable man - who has a donkey cart and sits outside on the pavement next to the small grocery - took my dad aside and told him not to worry, he thought of me as his own daughter.) I learned to cook rice pilaf, koshari, and sheshtawak, although not very well.

One thing that was fascinating to me in the movie (as a marketing person, I know, shame on me,..) was watching the segment on Walmart in the film. Then I was having a conversation with my friends on the food issue and we debated Walmart's motives in the whole organic market. My friend commented she doesn't trust the commercial giant. I've been thinking about that a lot lately - didn't Walmart specify that they were invested in organic, that their milk was hormone free, and the Stonybrook yogurt guy loves them? And don't I just love the guy on the Walmart commercial who is always dropping prices for me?

Then, as I'm furiously preparing my Sunday shopping list (yes, I know it's Tuesday) I run across this blog from my very favorite Grocery Game. Lesson? No matter what it entails - finances, your children's education, your health, your food - you are the only person who cares as much as you do. Take control. I don't shop at Walmart - further away than my two local grocers and I really only have time to choose the one with the best deals of the week - the horrible lack of service, although I was considering it. Now I'm happy to see that it looks like I've made a good decision and stick with my plan. After careful consideration, of course.

Friday, August 13, 2010

You Are Where You Live

I love it when work and life meet once in a while - it makes me feel less schizo and more like I'm trekking down some sort of good path. This is one example - using maps and data for a more healthy lifestyle. It has a lot to do with where you live and you'll find interesting tools here to help - everything from access to pollen count information, to skin cancer ratings to what lovely toxins you are inhaling in your morning walk.
When I first moved to sunny SoCal, having the air rating as part of the weather was rather odd to me. And the fact that many days were rated 'dangerous' and you should lock yourself indoors and not exert yourself when outdoors, was shocking. Weeks would go by when I was afraid to walk to the mailbox.
These days I'm resigned and have inherited the motto from the Stella Beer company in Cairo, Egypt: 'That Which Does Not Kill You, Makes You Stronger,.."

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Signing off to take care of a closet

This is my last post. As a 40 year old. Tomorrow begins yet another exciting year, I am sure. Resolutions for my new year? Anger management. Loose that baby weight (the babies are now 13, 10, 9, 4 and 2, I'd say it's about time). Learn to relax.

Which is tough to do hear that people are dreaming about you. No, unfortunately it wasn't the Naked Chef. I was talking to my mother-in-law and she told me, "I had a dream you were pregnant again." To which I responded, "Was I crying?"

Don't get me wrong. I obviously love babies. Or am starting a hoarding habit beginning with children (perhaps I'll move to kittens later in life?) But let's be realistic - I am well on my way to that five-oh mark and I've got bigger fish to fry in the stressed-out-about-my-kids department. I need to extract myself from worrying about temper tantrums and time outs and begin to fret about sexting and how to deflect kids who want to borrow my BMW.

Let's talk hoarding for a moment. I think I know how it starts. It starts with overworked mothers who don't have time to dust or put stuff away. It's starting with my closet. I'll be the first to admit I have no organizational skills; that is why I married an engineer. A few of his techniques have rubbed off on me without me realizing it - I can pack a mean suitcase and Costco cart. But that's pretty much where it ends.

I am so bad at straight corners and proper placement that I actually did have a conversation with my better organized half that the fact that I don't fold his shirts nicely is not because I don't love him, but in fact, because I am lacking those particular genetic qualities.

So this closet thing - I have about a three foot pile of clothes that need to be hung in the closet. (misnamed as a walk-in closet.) I can't get into said closet because I have a jumble of clothes spread willy-nilly that will fit one of the five kids at some point, but not right at this moment, a few piles of clothes that I did fit into once in my life and I swear it will happen again, and shoes spread everywhere because small girls like to try them on and fling them haphazardly into the open (but stuffed) maw of the closet.

I am limited to this three foot pile of clothes at the moment, until I find a time when I can thoroughly gut the closet and replace the clothes. But I get distracted by acting like a heat seeking missile sniffing out dirty socks hidden in crevices in the other rooms of the house, or painstakingly separating barbie accoutrements from legos from Disney Princess dress up from play kitchen food, etc,.. etc,.. and so on and so on.

The three foot pile of clothes is a monster. It is shameful to me that the garage has an old car, fifty million ride on toys, a four foot santa and can be walked through without fear of dismemberment, unlike my closet.

I'm going to find that camping headlamp and a few lawn bags. Please send re-enforcements if I don't post in a week.

Saturday, July 31, 2010

The Lazy Days of Summer

Man, oh man. My summer is over and it isn't even August yet. Not that my summer had any relaxation in it, oh no. Not with five. I need my own dashboard that shows me the 'common operating picture' of my family. That and perhaps I inject tagging devices into their arms at night (so is that how alien abduction fantasies started? Moms with plenty of children went into the babes' rooms at night and inserted tracking devices into their arms? No, that's just me and my weird sense of imagination) so I can easily call up a map and see where they all are. Maybe there is even an iPhone app for tracking your children, similar to the one my husband uses on my phone (how does he know I'm in the shoe department of Nordstrom during the Anniversary sale when he's 100 miles away, hmmm?) but less expensive than buying everyone an iPhone. Maybe I just take them to the vet and have a little device put in like the dogs have. I think I've been working too much lately. Anyway, I jest. I swear.

It's been fun, if not exactly sleep inducing, this summer. Lots of swimming, sleep overs, BMX racing, basketball and water polo playing and the like. Hubby and I have even come to an agreement on a vision for the backyard, and have about half a dozen large rocks in the garden to begin the artistic stage of that vision. Which is basically going to the local nursery in the heat of the day and buying anything that looks like it's surviving the pounding heat. Voila! Instant garden!

The B can swim. Not the earliest swimmer I've had, but the United States of America has a lot more to offer than a camp in the middle of a Filipino jungle, so we don't swim as much (maybe once a day instead of three times a day). Z, my 10 year old, learned before he was three, all by himself because I'm too much of a fraidy cake to let my children attempt to drown themselves while I watch. That sort of thing requires daddies.

Which reminds me of the time I left J, the 13 year old with his daddy at a hotel swimming pool with daddy's friend. J was about 6 months old at the time. I ran to the store and left the men wiht the child. When I came back, the child's head was wet. Dunking, I thought. Actually it was worse than that - they were pushing him back and forth under water to each other. I would have fainted at the sight. I don't care what forward thinking Australian lifeguards think (you know who you are) I don't think babies need to be underwater.

But the Z - he ripped off his water wings at the tender age of almost-three when I was safely on the other side of some Olympic sized pool in a hotel in Manila and yelled "Watch this!" and proceeded to swim across the width of the pool. Egads. (This is the same daring individual who during his preschool graduation, as he was walking down the center aisle to the stage in his tiny cap and gown, put the L sign on his forehead and yelled at the top of his lungs: "Rock on, Losers!" I kid you not. This is the child who is in the GATE program. Gawd help us all.)

Today is the first day of football for the boys. J and Z have been having quarterback training since the spring with a high school football coach from Pasadena. Nice guy and he knows his stuff. And the boys listen to him, unlike me or their dad. So it's worth the 2 hour drive and outlay of cold, hard cash.

That meant yesterday was physicals day. For three. With two small pink hanger's on. One wearing a tutu and nothing else (haha! No pants to remember!) and the other wearing a sundress with leopard print tights and red winter boots. Gotta love their sense of fashion. The boots prompted a lady in the elevator to tell the B that if she had boots like that, she would wear them all the time too. We ladies, we stick together.

The ped's office is an assembly line. I love their doctors. Which means I have finally let go of my Olympia Wash. doctor who I'm sure treated me kindly, but thought deep down inside I was a stalker. Because I would show up even though he knew I was in places like Egypt, the Philippines and Indonesia. But he put up with it since I brought him fun things to diagnose, such as amoebas, malaria, and various exciting skin rashes.

It cracks me up to have the doctor tell me that even though she has three, when she sees our family, it makes her want to have more.That is some good acting. (we are in Southern California, after all). This is after the blood curdling screams from the B because her brother is terrorizing her, and Fifi, the littlest one takes off down the hallway after I tell her to get back into the cozy little examination room. After I am trying valiantly to collect notes on my iPhone with one hand as the dr. is telling me information, using a foot to block the door so Fifi can't escape again, and the other hand to snap my fingers, point accusingly and pinch collar bones to keep everyone at bay. All without my blood pressure rising. I'm either the calmest person on earth, or Hannibal Lecter.

Let's talk blood pressure. I'm kind of freaking out because the 8 year old - my wiley guy - the one who has been in special therapies since the age of two for lack of using words, has high blood pressure. He has a BMI of 15 (what I'd give for that kind of BMI!!) and eats healthily dag nabbit. This doesn't run in the family. Mine is so low, I'm practically dead and that's after a pot of coffe and a couple shots from the salt shaker.

And we found out that he has a little nystagmus when the neuro check went down. A bit of shaking of the eyeballs when he was trying to follow the doc's pen to his nose. Blood pressure? We'll monitor that each day with the free machine (and $1.00 scoop ice cream!) at the Rite Aid that is a block away. The nystagmus has opened up another door for me to go through - opthamologist and a pediatric neurologist/education counselor appointments that might just get me that much closer to figuring out how to help K. Last year was a heart wrenching experience - he graduated out of physical therapy - his handwriting is spectacular! Even for a lefty (Sorry, President Obama - you give us some hope!) He's doing fine in speech and academic therapies, but there has to be something else that will help us through the tearful learning process that is the American education system. Thankfully, he had an amazing teacher last year at his school and I am forever indebt to that lady. Even though every time I saw her name appear on my phone I'd have to take a deep breath and brace myself. Because no mommy wants to hear their child is having trouble. It breaks your heart. I wanted to cry in the doctor's office, just to have another option so clearly presented again. I've gone down the tutor route; that failed. I've spent countless hours researching and interviewing people, but services pretty much end at five years of age. I'm excited for our prospects.

So, here's to a good school year, which begins in two weeks. What's up with that? I'm still waiting for my summer to begin.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

From the Mouths of Babes

One of life's greatest pleasures is listening to small children completely massacre their native language. We've had some good ones lately:

The B, my four year old loves to eat Rice Crispies cereal. Today she told me they were singing to her: "Crack, snapple, pop." I love a little 'crack' in the morning, too.

Favorite treat? Costco nonfat frozen yogurt from the snack bar. She likes the chocolate/vanilla swirl, which she refers to as 'squirrel.' The 13 year old relentlessly asks her what she wants to eat and can't stop laughing when she tells him she like to eat squirrels.

At night we say prayers together as a family. Sometimes, if the boys are thither and yon, I'll take that opportunity to teach the girls more traditional Catholic prayers instead of our nightly family prayer. The B requests 'Holy Moly' or 'Hairy Mary' otherwise known as the Hail Mary.

She's been watching Monsters v. Aliens quite a bit recently (you know how preschoolers and toddlers watch the same thing over and over and over and over again... gah!) and she loves to act out scenes. Her favorite is calling to the lead character Susan, who for some reason she can not pronounce without interjecting an 'n' so it comes out 'Snusan!'

Massacring language doesn't stop at four, however. We've had the opportunity to live in many different countries, and it is hilarious to hear what people say (as it is for them to hear me say stuff to them, for example, my whole 'chocolate duck' story).

One of the best is the misspelling of my friend Chris's name, so the emails he would recieve would be addressed, "Dear Christ," He's a great person, working for CRS first in Banda Aceh, and now Haiti, but even I wouldn't go that far.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Back on the Soapbox - Eat Your Veggies!

Recently on NPR, Morning Edition profiled a family on food stamps that found it was difficult to eat healthy on a tight budget.

In a nutshell, the mom says she can't afford leaner cuts of meat or fresh fruits and veggies because they are so expensive. Even though they have a garden, she finds herself giving her child a bottle of orange soda when he is thirsty.

There is something wrong in this country, folks. I do think that the suggestions outlined for remedying this are good - food pantries and soup kitchens offering cooking and nutrition classes; The First Lady encouraging chefs to volunteer at schools, heck, I love the Naked Chef and all that he did for American TV even though he's not really Naked,..

I find it horrifying that although the US is leading the world in obesity, we are also in fact, way up there in malnutrition. It's time we understand that eating simply is better for our bodies. I don't mean boringly; the best foods are the one popping with flavors - what beats fresh basil or cilantro? Nothing, folks.

I feed my family of seven probably on about $600 a month, and we eat very well. This includes name brand foods, organic, whole wheat and my beer. I'm a couponer - I live and breathe by the grocerygame.com - it helps me plan out my food strategy for the week, find the best deals and not waste a bunch of time looking at circulars on my own. That means that I buy stuff when it's on sale - this week we may be eating grapes instead of apples. Not a tough decision, that one. When you are feeding seven people three meals a day, that is a lot of organization and planning to make sure everyone has something to eat and they are eating healthily. These are not faint of heart eaters, either,.. the boys are incredibly active. Already dinner consists of two pounds of hamburger; can't wait til they all hit their teenage years. We are already in discussions to purchase half a cow.

I also believe in Coscto. Defame the large box store all you want, they do have the leanest hamburger and most normal tasting chicken I can consistently count on. I'll also supplement with meats from the store, again, when they are on sale, but I rely on this place. I don't buy a bunch of predone foods - it's not tough to grill up some chicken, steam some frozen (organic from Costco, even) veggies in the microwave and cut up the fruit of the week for a salad for dinner. I don't go that often, so these days I'm somewhere between a normal cart and the flatbed, but like driving a mini-van, I refuse to drive the flatbed.

Yes, I'm lucky to live in Southern California where we have a lot of great local farms to visit, and I also am part of a food coop. I go for the cheap organic box and get what I get. It's introduced us to new fangled fruits and veggies (dandelion greens, anyone? ) that we wouldn't have eaten otherwise. I also visit the local fruit and veggie stand, when I have time. The produce is 50% cheaper than the local grocers. But, to me, time is money, so it's a real treat to herd my brood of five through the confines of that small store.

Check ingredients, too, folks. Artificial sweeteners are not better for your kids. And they are usually more expensive. It's better, in my opinion, to feed the kid sugar (a real food) than some manufactured sweetener. There is nothing in any study done that says sweeteners do anything good for you. Yes, I'll have a diet coke every so often (and visualize my bones becoming porous as I do), but I won't give it to the kids. Soda? Yep, we have movie night once a week and the kids can have soda. Also at special occasions, but as a daily stipend? Never. You can actually survive on water as a liquid, amazing, but true.

High fructose corn syrup? Get it out of your diet. Look at ingredient lists. Even if a bread is whole wheat, it may contain this syrup. A local grocer's brand of whole wheat bread doesn't have corn syrup and is cheaper than named brand white breads. You have to do some work to find this stuff, but you can do it.

I think it's very important to teach kids to eat healthily and how to do themselves. This stuff is learned, folks. Are you going to teach them to pop in a microwave oven and go through the drive thru, or are you going to teach them how to wield a paring knife and make sure their plates are colorful? It isn't easy, but it's worth it in the long run.

Okay, off my soapbox now,..

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Sugary Breakfasts Banned in DC Schools

Check out this Blog discussing why banning flavored milks and sugary cereals (including Raisin Bran! Don't be fooled!) are being banned in Washington, D.C. schools.

My Life is Catalog

Oh, my friend's know me well! Thanks MomColumn!! Check out Catalog Living - a peek inside the lives of people who live in those catalogs - or just decorate like they do. I still have nightmares from living in Idaho and visiting a woman's home who had a house that looked like it stepped out of a catalog - with fake food nestled on the kitchen counters and her children's closets OPEN and absolutely pristine. This is a little Stepford Wife, just like that,...

How's your summer going? I'll update the blog once I have time. What with basketball camp, swim lessons, water polo, the beach, the mountain, the ghost town, the normal sized pool, the small sized pool, quarterback training, sports physicals, sports medicine dr. visits, physical therapy, shopping for food so we have the energy to do all these things, and then, well, sleeping,... I'm sorry, did summer start yet? Isn't it time to relax??

Saturday, June 12, 2010

That's All Folks!

I'm sorry folks. I've had a cold compress on my head since the school year ended. It's tough to get through all those projects when you have one or two children, I know. But, if you really enjoy punishment, have five kids and watch the special project notes come home from school in droves. All due on approximately the same day. Along with all the clubs and classes that your children are involved in expecting your special ice cream cone cupcakes because your children think yours are 'da bomb' and sign you up. For every club and every class. (although I think the 150 cupcakes I made for three football teams in the fall is still my personal record.)

So, first we had the renaissance faire for the 7th grader. Which, really is no problem because the kid is self sufficient (he has an iPhone for gawd's sake - that practically takes the place of a real mom, and it never yells at you,..) But he did require me to pay for some baseball pants so he could pretend they were renaissance pants. Then, he donned the rest of his outfit from his colonial days dress up project he still had from 6th grade (For that project I had to make stew with lima beans. To serve 50. Do you know 50 elementary kids who will eat a lima bean? Me neither. Go figure.) sans three point hat and called it good. I'm not going to micro manage, so I squinted really hard when I saw him dressed for school and saw,.. a colonial person wearing grey baseball pants. But that's just me.

Then, of course, he had the heebie jeebies thinking about walking the entire two blocks to school and requested a ride. And me, remembering my painful past in middle school (glasses, size 12 feet, braces, 6 foot stature,.. you get the picture) I felt compelled to drive the child to school even though I had to prep for the preschool Luau, and make sure the 4th grade mission project and 2nd grade 3D ocean creature project made it out the door safe and sound.

He did great; every other self concious 13 year old boy was also wearing last year's colonial costume sans hat, so he fit right in.

Mission project: this requires entire family participation. Yes, those families in the public school system during the 4th grade in the great state of California need to pick a Mission and either do a diorama or photo journal of a Mission of their careful choosing. The note came home from all the rah-rah Fourth grade teachers - "Be creative! Why, just last year, a student created a Mission made completely of ginger bread!"

I lucked out when my eldest was in 4th grade - I just had to move all the way to Indonesia and homeschool him to get away from the Mission project. This year; not so lucky.

I'm sure a "student" made an entire Mission out of Gingerbread. Really. I, however, won't
do projects for my kids. I passed 4th grade already, thank you very much, so I was much relieved to hear my boy wanted to take the easy way out and do the photo journal. So, for Mother's Day we loaded the pack into the Suburban and headed to San Juan Capistrano to visit the Mission. It was like any sort of visit to a historical building with five disinterested children. Much gnashing of teeth, pulling of hair (mine), running to and fro, whining (me again) and so on and so forth. Any silly little fantasies I had of visiting Europe again before I turn 50, we "misplace" a few kids, or they can be left on their own with the pizza delivery number and an ATM card, were painfully dashed there at the Mission.

Of course, the minute we hit the Mission, everyone turned HUNGRY, and I only had a Costco sized box of granola bars stashed in my purse (Dear Dooney and Burke: purses need to come in an XL size,too. Thanks. Sincerely, Muddlin') so I promised Starbucks (selfish, isn't it??) right after we were finished filling our brains with all sorts of wonderful Catholic California history.

Here is what a Starbucks order for my family sounds like: "three kid's hot chocolate with whip kid's temperature, one grande nonfat latte with no flavor, one grande coffee of the day no room for cream, one ridiculously priced hoity-toity soda, three chocolate chip cookies, one tall double chocolate Frappacino without any sort of coffee, one water in a cup and,.. yep, I swear that's all." Ring it up. "Oh! I need a bagel, too! Here's my credit card again - oh wait - that one burst into flames and is mere carbon now, let me find my husband who has cash,"... but is outside the store taking creative pictures with his camera because he rediscovered creative picture taking while in Guatemala for 2 and 1/2 weeks when he didn't have to help care for five children, but now he is back in the States, and need I remind him? He has five children to take care of and can't take creative pictures again until he's about 50,.. oh you get the drift.

I can honestly say that after that visit to the Mission, the 4th grader did everything else on his own; I was impressed he paced himself, and did so much (didn't even require any of my scrapbooking stuff that I found in the big amoire in the study and blew the dust off of) and got 105 out of 100 points. An awesome kid. I love self sufficiency!

Okay. 3D ocean creature project for my second grader, here goes: While hubby was on said Guatemala trip saving a remote village of people, I was hanging out with the brood. Hubby was finally back in cell phone range and called me on a Thursday night; he was coming home that Sunday evening. I had a total June Cleaver moment - I was making actual dinner - not relying on Trader Joe's or Long John Silver's take out (evil, isn't it?) when he called. I was a picture of love and calmness as I finished stirring whatever and cooing about his beautiful children, when second grader ran into the kitchen with saucer-shaped eyes exclaiming "I have to make a 3D project of a sperm whale! And it's due tomorrow!" To which my nostrils flared and I calmly, but assertively told hubby: "I gotta go." I ripped the instruction paper out of the kid's outstretched paw and read down to the end: due in a week's time. Phew.

This kid has my wily ways, but I wasn't going to take any part in it. I was going to make every stage a teaching moment and make him heavily involved in every aspect. No 'it's easier to just do it myself' from me. No sirree.

I had to make a decision in the beginning; go grocery shopping plus a stop at Michael's with all small children, or venture into Walmart. I'm not a snob, but I really love good customer service (Nordstrom - swoon!) and hate waiting in line for 30 minutes after I haven't found everything I need. And sometimes a girl's gotta have pine nuts and a good Brie and the local Walmart doesn't stock these items. Nor do they stock googly eyes, I can report. Sheesh.

So, I should have gone to Michael's. Next time, I will. But this time, I spent about five hours wandering aimlessly in Walmart (because they have bad GPS reception so says my iPhone) in search of fabric, stuffing, googly eyes, needles and thread. (Do all you readers remember I can't sew on a button? The only thing needles are used for around this house are flicking out splinters).

Second grader picked out a nice blue cotton. We waited forever to have the bolt of fabric cut (this is Walmart, remember? Need help? Bring a sleeping bag,..) So, to waste the time, I thought I'd teach life skills.
Loving mother (that's me): "So, K, we are going to ask for one yard of fabric."

Child frothing at the mouth, eyes rolled back in head, because he can sense a 'teaching moment': "uh"

Loving mother (me, remember?) "K, how many feet are in a yard?"

Child, head spinning about now: "Uhm,. about 100?"

To which I pull out my iPhone and start checking out postings from friends on Facebook until the Walmart helper decides to return to her station.

Get home. Have child draw pattern for said sperm whale (after careful reseach - shout out to you Google and National Geographic!) but I relent and cut since I can't find the special lefty scissors the kid needs. But I make him watch while I pin the pattern to the fabric and cut. Then, I thread the needle and he sews. It takes three days. But he does it. And I help stuff. And it looks great! I feel like my hubby (reinforcing concrete = reinforcing sperm whales, right??) as I reinforce stitching so the whale makes it to school.

Now, on to the three paragraph written portion of the project. Typed. I help a bit, but leave enough typos so it looks like an original piece of work. I help him find his information and structure it so it isn't just a report that says,"My report is a sperm whale. They are big. And blue. And they live in the ocean."

But while trying to figure out what interesting things to say about the whale : where in the ocean? what do they eat? do they live alone or in pods? I think for a moment, "why are they called sperm whales?" Remember this is for a second grade class and figure the origin of the name is better left unsaid. Leave it to my second grader to pick a sperm whale instead of an unsuspecting and innocent sea creature like a seahorse.

He did great with the project and the report. Yay!

The girl's luau? Are you kidding? At this point, I signed up to bring a large sized box of goldfish crackers and showed up. They have their whole elementary lives ahead of themselves for me to kill myself helping them on their outlandish projects.

I feel very thankful that we have all ended the year successfully. Who knows what 8th, 5th, 3rd, preK and preschool will bring for me? I mean us? I can only collapse in a heap and wonder,...

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

A Litigious State We Are In.

Did I really miss an entire month of blog posting? I should be flogged. You are right, my Facebook friends. I'll get right back to it now that the Mission Project, Renaissance Faire, 3D model of an Ocean Creature and Luau Party for preschoolers are all complete.

But first. This is really funny. And I would be laughing if I weren't crying for the realization that I too live in California and people like this are probably looking for reasons to sue me too.

Friday, April 23, 2010

He'll Be Comin' Down the 10 When He Comes

We are rounding the bend, folks. Hubby is coming home on Sunday afternoon. Yes, he of impeccable timing will have missed the Jumpzone party and any chance that I can take a nap that day. Unbelievable. He'll be here in time for dinner,.. which I supposed I have to dust off the cook books and remember how to cook.

But first we have to hide the evidence of our opulent lifestyle. We have to eat the rest of Martha Greens' cake that got left at my house after my Tuesday night girly night (Score! I know when to host a party - I want the leftover cake!) We have two days left to make our way to Long John Silver's. But seriously, just thinking about that place makes my triceps flap around. We should eat the rest of the prepared meals to make way for real food that needs to be lovingly transformed into something edible, instead of something you just zap in a microwave oven. I need to drink the rest of the preground coffee and go get the real beans.

Don't get me wrong, we are happy to have daddy back. if for no other reason than needing someone to figure out how to turn off the close captioning on the TV that mysteriously showed up at at the beginning of the week. Do you know how irritating it is to have closed captioning when you are trying to concentrate on watching what's happening on the TV show? Or how annoying it is to constantly have discussions with your 13 year old on 'Why do they have closed captioning on American Idol, anyway? Do you really think deaf people watch that show?" I don't know honey, I'm trying to watch the show that has closed captioning on the bottom third and not get distracted by five small bodies propelling themselves around my house,..

And I don't know why I always think I'll have some sort of major freedom when Hubby leaves. It's not like I'm shackled to my house more when he's here,... But for some reason I always think I'll do more for myself when he's gone. Why is that? Instead of two adults to take care of five kids, there is only one. Obviously, I'm not good at math. What have I accomplished? No girlie movies have been watched. I can't watch scary movies because I'm too much of a wimp to watch them when hubby is not here. Gym? Once I think, before the B caught 'gymdaycarphobia' and really, who can blame her? The attendants for the most part do nothing and the place looks like a jail cell - concrete walls and a small window for the kiddies to peer out and see their parents sweating away on a machine. I can't really sell it, because my heart's not in it. Running? Meh,.. a few times, but it's been raining and cold (below 70) and I'm sure someone will get sick if I take them out in the wind (because I'm so swift, ya know). Rowing machine? Hahahahahaha. Hubby's lucky I haven't wheeled it over to the edge of the pool, frankly.

So, while I'm excited to hear he's doing great and has taken boat rides and danced til midnight with small children and 100 year old womene (the others are off limits, so says our marriage contract), visited volcanoes and hiked in the jungle, I'll try not to be jealous that my sould fullfilling activities are smaller in impact. I have to drum up some stories about my exciting life. Uhm,.. picking buggers off car seats with my finger nail? Nah,.. The 8 year old getting medicine from a blister beetle for the bumps on his back? Marginal,...Whether or not the 2 year old's vomit this morning was a 5 alarm (she's got something infectious! Quarrantine!) or 1 alarm (apple juice went down the wrong pipe and should I keep sniffing the couch to assess the damage, or just 'fess up and break out the cleaning equipment now,..)

Well, the pups are up. Gotta feed the masses.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Activity-Aholic


Yep, that's me. It began when I was a teenager. Maybe it was the need to fit in as my army family moved us all over the world. By the time I graduated high school the list of activities I was involved in was a mile long. In college, I remember sitting in the VP for Student Affairs office trying to plead my case that I had too much going on and had to drop a class. He didn't go for it.


It's like what they say about addictions - whether it's eating, or drinking, or shopping (although I do those all pretty well, mind you). I am an activity-aholic. Hubby is gone and I fill my time to the brim with countless activities. This weekend alone we had a friend spend the night, watched two movies, went to Anaheim for some football training, visited a bookstore, ran a 5K, went to Mass, attended the free kid's concert hosted by the Redlands Symphony Orchestra and ate dinner at a friend's house. No wonder I'm tired, eh? I need hubby to come home so I can return to the sloth that is the real me. Really.


The 5K was fabulous! I ran it with my bud. Between walkin' and talkin' and pushing two double strollers we had a nice time of 42:18. All this without running over anyone - an amazing feat - there must have been 20,000 people vying for the finish line.


Hubby continues to do well in Guatemala. A few people have been taken down by fevers and the like, but they are finished with their bridge and today is the dedication for the bridge. The bridge is 120 feet spanning a river that separates two villages. During the rainy season the river is uncrossable so the village's children can not attend school and people can not go to the one clinic in the area. Locals have told Hubby that the bridge is going to save their childrens' lives.


It is a mile walk to the bridge site from the village where Hubby's team is staying. They have had to hand carry all their supplies to the site. About 20 villagers have been helping every day and they've gotten the bridge complete ahead of schedule.


This morning the team is heading over to the school, run by a South African man, to play football and soccer and hang out with the kids. They've been playing American football with the kids each night. Hubby is known once more as 'Superman' if for no other reason than his extreme height - especially in places like Guatemala, Indonesia, the Philippines,.. where people are petite. They are all having a great time. And I'm so jealous. So, to bury the green monster, I guess I'll do some more stuff,...Just one more week and he's home! I can rest again!

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Talking to Myself

Hi there Hubby,

It was good to talk to you. I'm so excited to hear your bridge building down in Guatemala is going so well. So well that you finished a week early. But you are coming home on the predetermined date. I'm sure that you totally "worked your butt off" and "deserve a little r&r." You go ahead and hang out by some tropical Latin American pool for an entire week. I'll be here, feeding and clothing your five children. Cleaning your house. Stocking your fridge. Washing your clothes.

But before I get all homicidal housewifey,.. I'll be honest, I'm doing stuff for me too. Besides the Trader Joe's fully cooked meals, I signed up for a little 5K for tomorrow morning. No biggy, just some fun time with my buddy as we run over really, really slow people who are also in the race. I picked up my bib and tee shirt this afternoon. All I can say is thank goodness I was wearing jeans; you should have seen the stems on some of those racers. I don't think I could have legs like that if I bought them on Ebay.

I've been trying to be good about working out. But my ridiculous German Shepherd has lost 10 lbs since December and would make an impressive 90 lb. dog; instead he is about 65 pounds. Besides the fact that it is embarrassing to run my pet skeleton with me around the neighborhood, I don't want him burning any more calories than absolutely necessary. So, I took him to the vet this past Friday and spent about $200 to find out that he is,... skinny. Yes, thank you very much. I figured that. For once I'd like to pay for an expensive medical procedure for a pet and have it actually find out something. So' we've switched his food to something more meaty (if for no other reason than the price) and are trying to hide the fact from my fat husky that the skinny shepherd is eating twice in the day.

Then, the gym was going well until the B decided she didn't like any of the kids, so now I can last through warm up and about 5 minutes in to whatever I'm doing, then that sad little face shows up pressing against the glass of the gym class room and I have to shelve the stop, weights and bands and tread home. Just enough of a work out to know I really didn't do anything, but I did do more than want to go home and wrangle kids and dogs into the double stroller and the leashes (where they end up depends on the amount of legs they have) and haul them all around the neighborhood. Yes, I can find an excuse on a desert island, I'm telling you.

Well,. time to stop my fun Saturday evening of folding hubby's freshly starched shirts (hehe) and blogging and wrestle small children to bed.

Peace out.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Dear Husband,

I'm so sorry I missed your call last night. I was really looking forward to talking to you since the last time we talked was Sunday night. It's tough for me, the iPhone, laptopped multitasking dervish to accept that fact that the Guatemalan jungle does not have an Internet connection and you have to share one cell phone with 200 paltry minutes between your 15 team members. But I can handle it.

I missed your call because I had to have all my faculties about me as I navigated the McTeacher Night at the local McDonald's, a crazed experience when both parents are available to handle the children; guerilla tactics were required for me to do this alone with five kids. But we had a successful visit - no one peed in the playplace and I only lost one child for a second as we were leaving. I still count five, so all is good.

What's going on, you ask? The usual. The B is a four year old singing sensation, unfortunately the lyric she chooses to sing over and over again is in the popular Kesha song and it goes like this: 'brush my teeth with a bottle of Jack' . As you can suspect, it really doesn't put me in a glowing light as I wheel her around the grocery store in a cart.

The big J got a few more brackets put on his braced teeth and hasn't eaten solid food in a couple of days now. He's been making smoothies and I think I've drilled it into his head that it is VERY important to put the cover on the blender before he hits the switch, and no, I don't think it is worth it to see what would happen if he didn't do that. For both my sanity, and his freedom's sake.

Z's friend finally found out that unlike what he thought, his daddy is not on a business trip but he and his mom got a divorce. This made Z sad to think about.

Then he asked me the question:"Uhm, mom, where is dad?"

"He's on a business trip. Really."

"Where?"

"In, the uh,.. jungle. Guatemala. Really."

"Soooo,.. is that why he hasn't called us?"

'Er,.. yes,.. he doesn't really have the capability to call us."

All the while the 13 year old is snickering and saying "Riiiiggght. The jungle. On a business trip."

Somehow everyone seems to need to go to the doctor while you are away, of course. This includes the dog.

Unfortunately no one stole my old beemer, so I had to finally pick it up at the shop. I was hoping it would be missing and I could use the insurance money to buy a nice, newer one. But I'll have to take a nap to continue with that little day dream.

Well, that's about it. I'm using your absences as an excuse to not cook and eat Trader Joe's prepared meals for breakfast, lunch and dinner. How much Brie cheese is too much Brie cheese, do you think?

Love and kisses,

Muddlin'

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Bridges in La Tana




The road on the way to La Tana, Guatemala.
A mango seller in Antigua.


The FlatIron group in Guatemala ready to build something!



Well, the hubby is down in Guatemala for two and a half weeks managing the building of a bridge in La Tana, Guatemala. La Tana is a two day drive from Antigua. He is leading a team from his company working with Bridges to Prosperity, an NGO that builds bridges all over the world.






These are pictures sent by one of the NGO workers to give hubby a lay of the land before they get there. The first three are from one of the engineer's wife, a registered nurse who is travelling with the group (thank goodness she is there!)j. I 'm still here stateside, taking care of our small brood of needy children.
Hubby's team will be staying in the concrete building, a clinic- they will set up tents to sleep in so they are protected from mosquitoes. They are all taking anti malarial medicines while they are there, as well. He contracted malaria while we were in Indonesia. So did our 4 year old, who was just one at the time, it's a scary disease. The disease kills 1 million people a year.
They have also been advised to take pepto bismal each day to help with the ol' not so clean conditions with the food. They are bringing in a cook from a larger village to feed them. I'm pretty sure that's why food is so spicy in tropical countries - to kill the bad things in the food. We've survived lots of places; eating shish tewok off of old dirty tables and sharing Sheesha pipes
(okay, that was just me) in the Khan in Cairo, eating all sorts of road side vendor foods in the Philippines and Indonesia,.. and the only time we had any trouble was when we visited a 5 star resort in Egypt. The big J, Z and I all contracted amoebas. Nothing like being pregnant and running poop samples to the local lab while setting up a surprise party for your spouse,..Such fun. Then, trying to figure out if the medication I was perscribed was going to have an ill effects on baby #3. Yes, fun times. So, getting back to someone other than me, I think hubby will be okay with the eating and malaria issues.
Their supplies made it into the country and passed customs and they are well on their way. I don't know how much more I'll hear from anyone, since they are literally, in the middle of the jungle. If I hear anything, I'll keep you posted.









Friday, April 9, 2010

The Food Revolution!


For all you tweeters, or twitterers, as the big boss at my company said in front of thousands once,.. today is Follow Friday in that cyberworld. One of the trends is to have people retweet Jamie Oliver's request to sign his food petition.


I've only seen the show once, but I love the concept of his campaign: to introduce our children to real food, not processed food, and teach the little beings how to cook.


As the mother of five, I'm forever trying to ensure my kids are totally healthy. I've slid down that slippery slope, however, from when my first born was a baby (No white bread! Only home made yogurts on whole wheat pancakes for breakfast! 1st year birthday cake made with all natural ingredients, no oils or sugars!) to my fifth baby (Well, if the government says a french fry is a vegetable,...) You know the drill.


I've liked Mr. Oliver since I first found him, on a BBC show and even after I realized that that whole "Naked Chef" business was referring to his food, and not him.


So, join the revolution! Sign the petition!

Thursday, April 8, 2010

The Curse of Cursing - Live! From Cape Cod




What with the hubby leaving me to fend for myself and take complete responsibilty for five little beings while he trekks to the middle of the Guatemalan jungle to build a bridge for the next three weeks,.. I just haven't had time to blog.





So, I bring you this great article that has my pole dancing friend Liz quoted. Read, relate, enjoy!

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Make a Donation for Your Easter Celebration!

A good friend of ours is a Maryknoll priest in Kenya. We first met him in Egypt. He and hubby and another friend of ours, who we worked with in Indonesia after the tsunami and is in Haiti now, got along grandly, lifting weights and doing dude stuff. Fr. Doug baptized our second born, Rob travelled to the Maryknoll Center in New York to visit, we continue to be penpals.

He is probably one of the most selfless people I've ever met and I hope do do a smidgen of good work as this man continues to do.

He is in charge of the Langata Boys shelter in Nairobi. Fr. Doug is joint venturing with the Salesian Fathers and Canadian Hearts and Hands to build a 1,270 m/sq, two story permanent residence at the cost of about US $500,000. Fr. Doug has personally raised US $35,000 so far and is matching ONE dollar of his personal money for EVERY one dollar that is donated up to a cumulative total of US$100,000.

Make donations to: Maryknoll Fathers & Brothers (in the memo line of the check write Fr. Doug May, MA 1949 and attach a short note to ensure it goes to the proper project.) You will recieve a 100% tax donation and you will be helping some incredibly less fortunate children.

Mail to: Donor Services: Maryknoll Fathers & Brothers
PO Box 302
Maryknoll, NY 10545-0302

Every little, tiny bit helps. Or, make a donation to the charity of your choice. A great way to celebrate this Holy day (and it doesn't leave an imprint on your hips like those chocolate rabbits,..)