Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Of Mice and Men

Home life with all males creates a remarkably different life-style than the one filled with four females and one lonely father I experienced growing up. This past week happenings in our chap dominated home really struck me into seeing some truths about males.

For example, Lucas and Daniel wanted to buy dwarf hamsters. I had a hamster when I was young. It was a good memory, except for finding it dead in the cage before sunrise about four months later. I burst into tears and carried its cold fuzzy body to my parent’s bed and cried until they woke up and asked what was wrong. They flipped out. Outside of this sad ending, I find hamsters to be cute and cuddly pets that are fun to watch. I also think it is great for kids to experience the joy of cleaning out the cage. I endorsed buying hamsters and a few days ago my males sent out to Petco and returned with mice! Not loveable hamsters, but…..beady-eyed, long tailed, snake and cat food sort of mice. The very same thing folks buy traps to kill, my sons paid their own saved up money to buy…... The main course snake owners purchase to feed their cobras? They are now family members. Rodent! As if that does not gross me out enough, they were so “affordable” they returned home with three of them!

THIS is why boys need daddies to take them to Petco. Had I been there? After hearing that dwarf hamsters eventually kill each other when they get older, we would have returned with a couple fish.

Another example… husband grew up quad riding and had wanted to buy a boy toy for the last ten years. I resisted. I just hated the statistics on injuries and worried that there would be an accident that could have been prevented had we bought those Legos instead. Two years ago, my dear friend Stephanie, had a heart to heart with me and explained that God made boys a different way, let’s just say “Wild at Heart.” She suggested I encourage the male bonding and adventure to flourish in my guys. She heartened me to embrace it. I came home from that late night conversation and shared it with my husband. I tell you the truth… that very next weekend he went out and bought the first of three quads and the trailer followed shortly after. I am outnumbered on the love of off-roading and I have had to trust my husband’s direction with our sons. Why? I would feminize them to death, if I could….just to keep them safe.

Yesterday Ralph and I went quadding. I was sort of excited about going, especially since the kids were not with us, so I could avoid ulcers worrying about them. It was just the two of us and I packed our lunch and stepped into his male world. I cruised the Hungry Valley following my husband who was having the time of his life. He led me on dusty trails, bouncing around like a toddler in a jolly jump. He gave me some pointers that I definitely needed, as we had only been riding together on sand dunes before, and this rocky desert riding required a totally different approach to staying alive. It started to be fun.  I am beginning to understand why my guys MIGHT enjoy this risky, filthy sport. And yes, I will go again.

From pet mice to quad riding (and everything testosterone-like in between) I am learning that boys desperately want dads to lead them in the ways of  men…. and men need women that will appreciate this leadership.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

What Did You Get for Christmas??

You know, it really doesn’t matter what was wrapped up under the tree with my name on it….I find that the best gifts are the laughter of gathered friends and family, lights and gingerbread houses, decorations and eating peppermint sweets, cocoa with clouds of whip cream and too many cookies. We have had a full week of reindeer games, dinner parties and afternoon naps. Perfect way to celebrate the life that God sent to us is by living and embracing the life He set before us. Looking back over our week, I am reminded how blessed we are in this department of life.

Our family walked down Gemini Court, which is a street with the largest electric bill in town…so many lights and mechanical decorations, THINK: Disneyland’s It’s A Small World crammed on one bright street. We happened to pick the night that Santa visited, so every crying toddler and stroller packed the sidewalks, while hay rides and Thomas the Train carted kids up and down the street. It really did have that Disneyland feel to it. The best part was that we dressed up one of our wiener dogs like Santa and she was a hit amongst the kids.

My friend’s birthday is 6 days before Christmas and I think that is a tough birthday to have. Tired of overlooking her special day, we threw her a party. LRC (left, right, center) is the new game around here and it is a simple dice game that requires only knowledge of your right and left direction. Another night we cruised our hood with our neighbors, enjoying peppermint cocoa and feeling the crisp California winter air nip at our noses, while admiring the lights. Afterward, we watched the Grinch and my youngest had never seen it all the way through. That  Grinch tale will never get old.

Tuesday we went to dinner at our friends (they make the best martini’s) and attended our church Christmas program together. Don’t martini’s and church go together? Maybe, just at Christmas time? Mabye? It was a great show with dancing, singing and an amazing guest speaker who was born without arms and legs. I left feeling inspired by the true meaning of Christmas and thankful for my limbs. Now that is a gift!

 Other highlights included Christmas Eve dinner at our home and Santa Tom visited for the 13th year in a row. Our dear friend, who has donned the red suit since our youngest was born, comes to pass out candy canes and listen to the children’s requests. It is  fun to watch my boys, who have now figured out that it is our friend Tom. “Santa” is still Santa to a couple kids in the group, so there is still a little magic that fills the room.

On Christmas morning we have a tradition and that is to read the Christmas Story from the Bible and say a family prayer of Thanksgiving before ripping into all the presents. Years ago, my husband read the story, then Lucas grew old enough to read, and finally, Dan is fully literate. This was the first year both kids shared the reading. It is a solid tradition that keeps the perspective of what all this hoopla is for.

 After opening gifts we went to my folks who live in town. Every year we play what we titled “The Christmas Tree Game’. It was invented about 7 years ago and it is a cardboard tree board game. When your game piece travels down the tree , landing on different “ornaments”, you are commanded to pull from a pile of gifts, open a gift, swap gifts (players bring three wrapped gifts… a white elephant, a purchased anything and something homemade). Some game spots make you sing a Christmas carol as fast as you can, kiss someone or lose a turn among; other things. No doubt everyone wants to walk away with the most desirable gifts…..but it is a game of chance. I felt a bit bad for my older sister who left the game with the white elephant gift my husband brought; a five gallon camping shower and old frame….a zonker gift! However, I don’t feel THAT bad because for Christmas Santa brought her two tickets to Italy.

In years past, we would be leaving for Bass Lake for New Years with two other families. It did not work out this year, so we are doing the fun things that we would do in Bass Lake right here….like ice skating and spending the New Years Eve together in pajamas and having a talent show. It is nice to know that the kid’s music lessons have purpose, and this year I might attempt a little comedy routine.

You can see and hear that we are absorbing every ounce of Christmas joy that we can, especially since my hubby has two weeks off from work….that is why we need our afternoon naps…..late nights, Christmas Nogg and chattering takes its toll ,so extra sleep is needed to keep up the holiday pace.

 Again, I note that my favorite part of the Christmas Season are the fun connections that accompany it ….oh yeah, and I really LOVE my silver cross necklace from my husband…..THE cross….just another reminder of why this time of year carries an over abundance of joy.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

The Christmas Suit of Confusion

In preparing for Daniel’s school Christmas singing program, he requested that he dress in a Tuxedo…upon further investigating, I realized that he meant a suit and tie. There are a couple boys in his class that show up spiffy, unlike most that meet the bare requirement of dark pants and white collared shirt. Thinking it was sweet that he wanted to look his holiday best, we took a family shopping trip that night, playing twenty questions on the drive.

When it was Daniel’s turn he told us that he was thinking of a famous building….so we started questioning him if this building was in California? No.
New York? No
Washington DC? No.
USA? No.
Another country? Yes.

He gave us hint that it was a place that started with the letter A….hmmm. After many guesses we figured out it was Australia. It did not seem odd that he would pick a famous building in Australia as his friend from school just returned from a three week trip down under, so I figured Daniel had learned a thing or two. None of us could pull an answer out of our hat as we did our best to name the little we knew about Australia’s best known architecture. Alas, Daniel gave us a much needed clue. He had to; the game was at a standstill, so he told us, “It starts with the letter C.”

That helped… sort of, not really...silence filled the car as my husband, Lucas and I scratched our heads. It appeared that Daniel had stumped us and won the game….that was until he told us the answer…..The Sears Tower!HA! He was surprised  as we were tickled when we told him that The Sears Tower is in Chicago, Illinois and that it is started with the letter S. We all had a good laugh over his dim-witted answer, or, I like to call it innocence because he is a really smart third grader 99% of the time.

The next night was the Christmas Program and Daniel took his shower and was eager to put on his new suit and tie. Again my mommy heart was aglow at the thought that this little boy actually cared how he looked up on that stage playing his recorder in front of hundreds of people, reciting bible verses and belting out Christmas carols with hand movements…….and then he dropped the bomb. He asked if I had some dark glasses he could wear with the suit because he wanted to look like he was in the FBI! That is what he really cared about…. pretending he was all dressed up to protect the president, armed with a gun and ear piece, privy to top secret information, and wearing a bullet proof vest under his dapper suit!

I tell you what, this kid keeps this family laughing and it is sad to see him grow up so fast. It won’t be long before he is working on the third floor of the Sears Tower in Australia for the FBI.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Elle Hoo

Last Sunday, the lady leading worship at our church mentioned that she sings at a lot of funerals and she had more than usual during the holidays. During the funeral service she listened to all the praiseful, uplifting, wonderful things that were being said about person who had passed on. She then double dared us to take some time to write a letter to someone we love or care for and to share the words with them while they are alive to hear them….because it is sad to think how we wait until a person dies before we relay all the things we admire about them.

Sitting next to me during the service was my friend of nine years, Elle Hoo. I started thinking about her and all the joyful and not so joyful times we have shared. Getting through her husband’s kidney transplant, Lucas’ health issues, life’s regular ups and downs, and our house fire solidified that we will be friends for a long, long time. When we met at Community Bible Study in 2000, we were part of the New Mom’s Group with our infants. It feels like God brought us together…I just know He did. We slowly became friends, walking our little ones in joggers and spending lots of Mommy time watching her daughter and my son grow up.

The characteristics that keep me wanting to be friends with Ellen are many….she is a kind and loving friend that lets me be me….I don’t feel like I have to be anyone but myself around her, even if that means I am hurting, depressed, or worried, but most of the time I am silly, honest, wine sipping and simple when we get together. Ellen is committed to her family and spends hours at her kids school volunteering in so many different areas from Art to painting shirts…..she is a classy woman who works at keeping her marriage connected, and her small tribe of four in sync. Ellen has her priorities straight! She loves the Lord and looks toHim, but she is not a stuffy, uptight, wagging her finger in your face sort. She radiates grace, compassion and understanding. Because she is genuine, I have been able to come to love and appreciate her warts and all, and she has done the same with me. It feels wonderful to know I am loved even when things do not look or feel anywhere close to perfect or under control.

Ellen is health conscious and committed to plenty of exercise for mental and physical benefits and she has introduced me to many healthy snacks that I would have never met, if not for her. For example… grape tomatoes, munching on raw cucumbers, Smart Pop popcorn, or throwing artichokes in chili. She also is an excellent baker, gingerbread cookies are her specialty. For a while, every time I called her she was baking cupcakes!

When we first met I could not believe that she mowed her own lawn, I thought…” Wow! What a woman, I am going to give that a try!”

I starting mowing and kept it up for six years… so you might say Ellen inspires me with her take charge way.

When our children were three she invited our family to Bass Lake. Since that first trip in 2003, we have shared family vacations at her parent’s cabin and every trip has been packed with the best family memories that my husband, kids and I treasure. Lots of games, crafts, laughter, long walks and home cooking take us over as we spend lazy days at the lake trying to get our kids up on skis or pulling them on a tube with their boat. She is the boat captain and an expert water skier. She is humble about her talent on the water, and everything in her life. She is amazingly comfortable on the lake whether it is knee boarding, canoeing or her world famous cannon ball. I admire the wisdom she has shown in the value of keeping the child inside me alive and active. Her natural beauty on the outside is only outdone by her loving, youthful and wacky insides….. Cheers to you Ellen, you dare to make my life a happier place and I wanted you to know why.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

The Christmas Goat

For Christmas my twelve year old, Lucas, chose to forego stocking stuffers and buy a goat to be donated in his name thru World Vision. He insisted on a goat, not a lamb or chickens. This decision really impressed me … the fact that he thought about it as he flipped the pages of the World Vision Catalog (a sobering read). We talked about what it meant to sacrifice and how his stocking would be empty on Christmas morning, but what that would mean for a family that doesn’t have food or milk every day. I can understand why my nine year old decided not to give up the stocking loot , he is young and it is fine with me that he did not participate. This was a gift I wanted to be given freely and in the spirit of sacrifice.

Sacrifice is painful and I am pretty sure I would have not made the same decision he did when I was nine or twelve. It really touched my heart that Lucas expressed compassion at such a young age. As a general internal reflex I find it easier to turn my head to children bloated, lying on the ground with flies dancing around their faces with big round hungry eyes. I don’t go there easily. It is worlds away from my comfy home, healthy family and cupboards filled with food. A holiday prayer that does travel my heart this time of year is for the children who are in the hospital over the Christmas Season. Most Americans celebrate the birth of Christ, but under that umbrella falls all these wonderful Christmas happenings….creating gingerbread houses, driving around to see house lights, sitting on Santa’s lap, baking cookies, spending Christmas Eve with friends and family, going to church and the best one of all… waking up in your OWN BED in your OWN HOUSE on Christmas morning. Hospitalized children experience none of that. Yeah, Santa visits the hospital, but it aint nothing like Christmas at home.

Baby Lucas was released from the hospital nine days before his first Christmas in 1997. This particular admission for him was for five months and sixteen days in the Intensive Care Unit. In his first year while being hospitalized,  Halloween came and went and I did not care that Lucas did not have a cute baby costume. Thanksgiving came and went and I ached to have my baby home, but just accepted that it would not happen and was thankful he was alive. But the thought of his first Christmas  being spent in an ICU crib just ate me up inside. I wanted nothing else but for our family of three to be cuddled up in our nest and NOT humming Silent Night to the bleeping of hospital machines. Arriving home on December 16, 1997 was the best gift of any Christmas so far. Sleeping together under the same roof, with my ten month old down the hall and my husband next to me was HUGE. Just knowing that I could hug my baby first thing Christmas morning and hold  him without a drive to UCLA was a gift words would only cheat.

Spending so much time in the hospital in his first year of life affected some development that, thankfully, he has caught up with over the years. Lucas has had his share of medical procedures in the last 10 years, enough to make him NOT like hospitals or needles and to create a tender, compassionate heart. He has befriended other children with heart problems that are actively being treated for serious issues of life or death. Possibly because of what he has lived and seen, (the stuff most healthy kids are never touched by) is the very reason he could decide to donate a goat to a needy, starving family, instead of insisting on a stocking full of more ‘stuff’ that provides short lived excitement.

When I look at the picture above, that was taken in 1997,at the hospital before being realeased for our first Christmas at home, I remember how diffcult that year was and how far God has carried Lucas...sitting back my eyes are once again opened to the truth that bad times don’t last forever and that God can turn even the icky, painful situations into something beautiful. Like the saying goes…God works slowly, but he is always right on time….. my heart celebrates that He not only sent his Son, but this Christmas, through Lucas, he sent a goat!

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Thanksgiving Meatballs

We are traveling to Arizona for Turkey so we celebrated the holiday last night in our home with my clan. Family from Hawaii flew in for the week. It is my first cousin Gianna, with her husband Mike and their three small children, ages 2, 4, and 6, whom we have not seen in two years.

Moving our couch to the garage to make room for tables, all 17 of us ate together. The menu was an untraditional Thanksgiving …mustacholi and meatballs, handmade by my Mom and Dad. Very Italian and delicious. Of course Mom overcooked, so everyone took home a party favor of mustacholi and meatballs in a baggie.

I had a fabulous time with my sisters and cousins and aunts and all the darling kids, including mine. My cousin has lost 95 pounds and the highlight for me was getting to see what was left of her….what an amazing difference! Having her small kids in the house made me realize how old and grown up my 9 and 12 year old boys are. I spent the entire day cleaning and making my house all pretty so that these mini Hawaiians could come break a screen, another refused to eat dinner and another upset my nine year old to the point of tears……the two year old just wanted to take over my sons room and touch and mess with his valued ‘stuff’.

I can understand why a two year old would do this, but Daniel could not. When he awoke this morning I greeted him with, “ Good Mornin Daniel, How are you?”

Without hesitation, he answered, “Just happy that Rocco is gone.”

Ahh, good times…..It really doesn’t matter what time of year that you feast, or what you feast on. It is getting together, sharing laughter and feeling united in a love that floats throughout the crowded, loud room. So my First Thanksgiving was a splendid experience and I anticipate doing a Second feast with my husband’s family later this week. Hopefully another memorable time, minus the broken screen door and tears.

My overall assessment of Thanksgiving? Fancy food is good, but friends and family are the best! Oh, and so are those leftovers…now I am signing off to warm up some meatballs.

Thursday, November 19, 2009


I read that when Oprah was a child she prayed that God would use her….and I guess in many ways he has. For years, I have asked God to use me. When I stepped back to see what was in the works, I figured out that this meant playing mom, wife and living in the light….so, I stopped asking Him to use me and moved on to the prayer request that He would show me why he put me on this Earth. You know, my individual special purpose. But still nothing exhilarating popped out at me and I am left packing lunches, schlepping myself to fourth grade to tutor in math four days a week while I arrange play dates , grocery shop, fold laundry and listen to my kids practice piano and guitar daily. Honestly, I am disappointed if this is all God has in sight for me. Not that being a mom is without meaning, because this huge job, if done correctly, is loaded with purpose and can impact the world. I see a lot of good in my Christian service that is administered under our roof. However, There is a slice of me that wishes God would utilize me in some exciting glamorous way, you know huge and electrifying ……like being the next white, five foot Oprah, transforming our world on a grand scale.

I get it. I am serving my family, and in twenty years from now I hope to see God’s big picture and maybe it will all be clear why this mundane ordinary purpose was my calling. The truth is that I am just another soccer mom who is fortunate enough to have one amazing healthy husband and two healthy boys that light up my life. Health is EVERYTHING!

God answers prayers, I have experienced that high many times…He just does it in His own slow perfect way. When I studied the Bible I noticed that God used the winos, prostitutes and biggest losers to express his love and impact history. Being regular old wine loving simple me, I have hope that I will be called on some mission (I don’t mean Africa) outside of family life that is exciting and daring and requires immense trust and faith to see it through.

But for now, I will rotate the laundry.

Friday, November 13, 2009

The Early Jollies

Want to know something? I am looking forward to Christmas….I know, I know, Thanksgiving is still two weeks away, and the Halloween box hasn’t made it back into the rafters.

 Wondering why I have this Jolly bug so early, I came to the conclusion that I love to give presents. Sure, I enjoy shopping, but don’t do too much of that for pleasure because of a mortgage, braces, a car payment, electricity, private school and Greenies for our dachshunds (what makes them so expensive?)

This is that time of year when I indulge in guilt free spending (of course within the budget). After making my purchases, I anticipate wrapping the treats for my friends and family. I am a simple wrapper and barely get a bow on the present. I don’t think that elaborate fluffy presentation stuff is all that important….yeah, it looks good, but in under a minute, five dollars worth of fake red poinsettias, wrapping paper and colorful wired ribbons are in the trash….or if you are really old, then you preserve all those fixings, thinking they will be reused, but in reality you will forget where you stored them, so they are never employed again. Or, If you are like my Little Ma’s (my maternal grandma, may she rest in peace), you store them in your shower. Little Ma’s shower stored five feet of used wrapping paper and bows from the last twenty years. Really. As a child I could not open the shower door, less an avalanche of dusty, bright ribbon and neatly folded packs of wrapping paper bury me alive. For the record Little Ma’s never showered, she LOVED her bathtub.

Ahem, back to my point…. So Christmas approaches and I feel jolly. After shopping and wrapping,  I now get to give my gift to that friend I love so much. It is not an expensive gift, but hopefully something that they will love or at least like. This physical giving part is when I become soaked in a warm happy feeling. As they open it, I swell with excitement, hope and nervousness, wanting them to genuinely like my gift.

But then this happens……I was at a girlfriend’s home recently and was helping her prepare for dinner when I opened a cupboard that held the present I had given her two years ago, unopened, never used. Ok, that did sting a bit, but I got over it by my second martini.

Now I might have to admit that maybe I shop for ME this time of year. Maybe this rush of gift buying is why I am so darn jolly so early…..Maybe, just maybe I am really horrible at selecting gifts and all these years my dear friends "oooh" and smile big just to be polite and then when they get home they toss my gift in their spare shower, or empty cupboard…….Hmmmm.

In conclusion, I am cheerful and enthused about the upcoming season, which really is all about Baby Jesus and not giving material gifts that I carefully select, pathetically wrap, and receive a small rush of warm love over.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Sweet. Literal. Daniel.

I love having nine year old Daniel in our family. He is a thinker and is discerning, intelligent, sensitive and possesses a fabulous sense of kid humor. These qualities mixed together bring my husband and I much laughter. As I had mentioned in a previous blog… take adult language literally, especially Daniel.

Saturday night our family was driving to dinner when my husband ran a red light. It was a close call, but really, he ran the red. The kids perked up. I turned tense and shouted a bad word in my mind as I scanned the street in the review mirror. I mentioned that in Ventura, the city has installed cameras attached to the lights that snap your car running the red and then send you a picture and a ticket. My husband was aware of that.

“There is one at Seaward and Main Street that I always pass. Right there on Seaward.” I note.

Daniel blurts out, “Seaward?”

Ralph and I continue to talk about the many intersections in Ventura that have the snap and snitch system installed. Again I mention Seaward Avenue, as it is the one I come across often.

In the back seat I hear Daniel repeating the word Seaward over and over, while Ralph and I nervously chat, thankful that there was no camera or police around to capture his mistake.
From the backseat I hear his curious voice, “Seaward? What Seaward? Do you mean crap?”

All conversation stopped as I looked back at Daniel in the back seat.
“What? Dan, what did you say?”

“Yeah, Seward, is that what you mean? Crap.” he giggled nervously.

I paused and slowed my chattering adult mind down to nine year old speed. Then I connected the dots. In our family, we avoid certain words, but he hears acceptable references. As in Seward (C-word) and Main Street. … Daniel thought I was sly in saying the C-word, as in the F-word.

Of course he thought I was secretly adult coding Crap and Main Street….. he is nine….. He does not drive or know the street names in Ventura.

Now, that is funny......Sweet, Literal Daniel.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

The Pediatrician

Our pediatrician holds a saint status in my heart.

I remember the day I went to meet with Dr. F, with Lucas’ immunization records from UCLA and many adorable photos of my baby who, after five months in the hospital, could finally come home. I was so excited to start planning his return, and coordinating the details with the pediatrician was a major part. Emergency plans would need to be in place and having a good working relationship with the pediatrician would be vital, as Lucas had many medical issues and specialists and Dr. F would be in the middle of it all.

I sat in the tiny cold room with animals painted on the walls and a pile of kiddie books on the table next to me. I was nervous and shaky inside as I held a stack of pictures, flipping through them, admiring my sweet baby who was alive after a miserable 8 month fight to survive. I was anxious to get down to business with Dr. F and I waited, rehearsing what I would say to him. Dr. F walked in the room and took a seat. I am sure I was glowing from all the hype that was going on inside my body. Before Dr. F even had a chance to review the records and admire the pictures of Lucas connected to his ventilator, playing in his exersaucer with a huge smile on his face, Dr. F took out a verbal pin to pop my balloon of hope and excitement.

He explained that he had met with the other pediatricians in the practice and they had decided that Lucas could no longer be a patient in their group. His reasons were because of the extra attention, time and care that would be needed with a patient like Lucas and the discomfort other patients might feel having a child on a ventilator in their office waiting room. My heart sunk. Inside I felt anger and sadness, but kept an understanding smile on my face. Feeling like a leper, I walked to my car and had a good cry.

What was I going to do? UCLA would not release Lucas without a pediatrician and our own doctor had rejected him. I was in the dumps because I knew that hauling a baby around with a 40 pound home ventilator, suction machine, in a double stroller with a nurse could be awkward for any pediatrician’s office to deal with. It was like wearing a scarlet letter. Upon my return to UCLA, I explained to the pulmonologist what had happened with Dr. F, and he shook his head in disappointment. I shared my fear of all kid doctors rejecting Lucas because he was a lot to handle and that he would have to grow up in one of those medical half way houses for patients that can’t be cared for at home. The pulmonologist said he knew a pediatrician one city over from our home and that he would discuss the possibility of this pediatrician treating Lucas. I did not like the idea of having to drive to another city as often as Lucas would need to visit, but at this point I was so drained from living in an intensive care unit for five months that I did not squawk. I was at the mercy of the system. Praying this new doctor would accept us, I waited to hear the outcome.

Yes! Dr. Gold would be happy to take Lucas on as a patient. Not only that, but on our first visit to see Dr. Gold, I was told I would not have to linger in the waiting room when going to an appointment, but would be escorted to the back office when we arrived. I was given the secret office phone number to bypass regular scheduling, and was introduced to Mary, the office manager. Everyone was warm and welcoming and did not treat us like lepers.

That was twelve years ago.

Today  Dr. Gold still treats us with the same warmth, respect, goofy humor and conservative style that he did that first day. He recently put Lucas on Tamiflu because of the H1N1 vaccination delay, and he promised that when the small amount his practice would receive was delivered, that he would save one for Lucas. Yesterday, Mary called and today we get the shot. I will have a piece of mind knowing I did all I could do to stave off what could be a serious illness for a kid like Lucas.

Looking back, I am happy that Dr.F rejected Lucas, although I did not see it as a blessing at the time. A year later, we moved to Dr. Gold’s city and this made things much easier. I could exalt Dr. Gold for pages about how gracious, moral, intelligent, silly, helpful, compassionate and wonderful he is, as we have had quite a history. But for now, I will suffice it to say that Dr. Gold holds a saint status in my heart.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Black Friday

Who says dinner time is not educational? Last night, our Monday night family dinner conversation flowed like normal, discussing the Halloween weekend and our highs and lows that accompanied it.

I asked my family, “So what does the next week, this first week of November, hold?”

It was quiet and then twelve year old Lucas blurted out, “Black Friday!”

“What is that?” Little brother, Daniel asked.

“Black Friday! Do you know even know what that is, Lucas?” I questioned him.

Then it registered, “Oh, wait, that is at the END of November”, he said.

“What is Black Friday?” Daniel pushed for an answer, feeling left out. I admit I was avoiding his question and still engaged with Lucas. We agreed that Black Friday is the Friday after Thanksgiving.

"What is Black Friday?" Daniel interrupted. He started getting angry and  tired of being overlooked, then asked, “Is Black Friday Martin Luther King Day?”

I almost choked on my bite of hamburger because the laughter had nowhere to go. It was so darn funny and yet was simply logical he could deduce that Black Friday was all about Martin Luther King. Daniel is only nine and a male and hates shopping…. so Black Friday, the busy, overcrowed, super sale shopping day would never come up in his third grade world. But Martin Luther King sure did! Suffice it to say the true meaning of Black Friday was defined, explored, critiqued and analyzed over French fries and burgers at our dinner table.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Halloween Happenings

We Trick–or-Treated in our friend’s neighborhood that was alive with haunted houses and lots of well lit homes waiting for our goblins to knock. Eight boys, most dressed in some form of black costume, made their way up and down the streets with a pillow case full of sweets. Daniel was part of the Special Forces Unit (gas mask included) and Lucas was a wicked jester. In our caravan of boys roamed the Grim Reaper, Slash (from Guns and Roses) and a Zombie.

It was a fun chili-dinner filled time for our entire family...we shared a yummy meal and then the Moms paraded the kids outside and the Dads stayed in to "hand out candy", AKA drink beer and watch the World Series. Everyone had a blast....well, except for that one Halloween glitch that came up just after midnight. The kids were asleep, and we settling into our bed, resting our tired feet and brains. Daniel walked in our room announcing groggily that he barfed in bed. Then he finished off the job on our bedroom floor. Lots of smelly chocolate. We literally leapt out of bed, stripped his sheets, started a load of laundry, tossed Dan in the shower for a good scrub, and cleaned up the mess with one eye open. I am thankful to have a husband who shared the disgusting clean up job with me.

I knew we should have monitored the amount of candy intake after returning from Trick-or-Treating. Oh well, he learned the hard way and I suspect next year we just have to remind him of his Halloween Hack. That should be enough to put his brakes on when reaching for just one more candy bar.

Halloween is behind us and now we look to the Thanksgiving feast.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Election Results


Two hundred first through eighth graders cast their student council ballots today at Lucas’ school. Election results will be posted Friday afternoon. Lucas presented his speech beautifully at yesterday’s rally, as did his competition. Win or lose this twelve year old is a champion in my heart.

Hmmmmm….President! It is refreshing to see that he aims high.

When I was in seventh grade, I ran and won the election for the Officer of Religious Affairs. Attending Catholic school, this office’s main responsibility was to track each grade’s progress on selling The Tidings (Catholic magazine) subscriptions. It was a class competition and I made each grade a flower pot with a flower that grew in proportion to the amount of subscriptions sold. When the contest was over, the grade with the tallest flower won. And THAT was the beginning and end of my middle school political career. My sophomore year of high school, I was on the student council, but cannot recall my office title….was it secretary?

What’s my point? Never ever did I have the vision or guts to strive to be the president of anything. Lucas is already the victor in my life just for having the confidence to seek and reach out for the title of Chief.

10-23-09 Two Days Later…
Lucas did not win the race and he seems to be shrugging it off nicely. I am so proud of that kid! On to the next event…..a seventh grade overnight field trip to Sea World….

Monday, October 19, 2009

No Improvement Needed

There are reasons why I sincerely enjoy working in a fourth grade classroom, and here is one example why.

Memory books at this age are not as elaborate as in kindergarten, but a wonderful token and a one-of-a kind creation made by each student…, poems, writing, …and I like to throw in a few pages of interesting information that will be valued more when they are forty, instead of a measly ten years old. It is then, later in life, they will be gently reminded of their childlike ways. Those patterns that have slipped away with the decades.….I am hoping these pages of personal information will awaken the child within them and again, they will find themselves craving a healthy overdose of sugar and a competitive game of four square. Maybe it will jog their memory of how simply a child’s mind operates… different than our adult brains.

This particular paper that the class worked on was titled, THE STONG AND THE WEAK ME. The kids rated if they were weak or strong at different sorts of talents… from math, friendship and spelling to soccer, organization and painting…..At the end of this paper was a space to list, “Three Things I Am Good At.”

It is here the kids have a chance to acknowledge and list their strengths.

Today while filing through these papers, that were completed last Friday, I came upon a sweet, loveable and tough little boy’s notable words…. His strengths were listed like most…”football, keeping friends and video games.”

The last section of the worksheet is titled, “Areas I Would Like to See Improve.” There had to be some innocent mental bantering going on between his ears, as his answers are NOTHING that an adult would ever conceive. These three blank spaces, that were intended to expose attributes the child hoped to grow in, were filled with the words:

1. Texas

2. The Desert

3. Mexico

This mini-guy must have given strong consideration to literal places that he thought needed some improvement. It never crossed his mind, after completing the top of the worksheet, to list attributes inside of him that might need some development or focused attention. And THIS is why I love fourth grade…. Because in the eyes of a ten year old boy Mexico and Texas need improvement while he is doing JUST FINE and absolutely content in mastering football and video games!

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Nothing's Changed

Yesterday was an anything but an average day. On regular days, I do not scrub toilets, finalize my Will and visit the pediatric cardiologist. Since Wednesday is the only day that I don’t work in fourth grade, my home of employment, it is the day that personal appointments are made and lose ends tied up. It does not feel like a day off, but time to play catch up with life’s business, cleaning, and laundry. I am not complaining because I am one hundred percent sure having an anything but average day, that contains good health, is nothing short of a ginormous generous blessing.

There was sunshine in my personal life, amongst the clouds that poured down inches of rain, pretty much all day long. This was not average Southern California October weather… to pack umbrellas and driving 55MPH on the 101 freeway. However, this was THE DAY we visited Lucas’ heart doctor. It feels wonderful to not ask my husband to accompany us…..we usually all go together. Honestly, the last couple heart visits have been pleasantly uneventful, and I can handle bantering with the doctor who has been become a friend over the last twelve years.

My son’s heart checked out, with the doctor declaring, “Nothing’s changed”, which in Lucas’ case equates to an A+ report. If this phrase “Nothing’s changed” were to describe diet results or school bullying, it would feel like a defeat, but when it comes to Lucas heart, we celebrate. These words carry the weight of receiving a 1900 on the SAT test. It means that we are gifted nine more months of heart free worry and able to focus completely on elementary school political campaigns, soccer practice and upcoming holiday joy….all because, nothing’s changed.

There were past visits to see this very same doctor, who sat us down after the same tense echocardiogram test, and explained how TOO much had changed, for the worse. Transport teams were offered, but my husband and I chose to drive his little broken heart to UCLA ourselves. Last time the transport team escorted him to the hospital, it felt like a federal emotional offense and my Mometer went berserk (See Blog titled More Mometer). Nothing close to that happened yesterday….the only transporting last night was me and a bottle of vino to my girlfriends home to share details of our regular healthy family lives.

Oh, and I can officially die without the fear of burdening my family with probate. We signed our Will and Trust yesterday afternoon. It feels eerie to finalize who gets  my wedding ring and clothes when I die. This legal business makes me an official responsible parent and grown up, doesn’t it? It  feels good to be alive, to hear good heart news, and have a death plan in concrete. As I said earlier, yesterday was anything but average, and thankfully, nothing has changed.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Change in Weather

As Southern California braces for the first storm of the season, I can only imagine what it feels like to live in bitter freezing weather. I am referring to a place where “cooler than average” is not considered 70 degrees on the thermometer. Like Michigan….now that would be a culture shock to me on top of being miserable. Southern California averages 80 degrees this time of year. I have suffered through the recent colder than average temps by simply not wearing flip flops outside. Socks and shoes put the brakes on feeling the lost ten degrees. Folks back east must laugh out loud when they watch our weather reports.

So here comes the rain…..time to drag in some fire wood and dig out my cozy Ug boots. I need to move the dog’s food and water bowls and shuffle the patio furniture around so it doesn’t get wet. The part I most dread with the seasonal shift is the cold and flu season that comes with it. Reading in the paper about the number of kids that have died or been hospitalized due to Swine flu has really put my mommy nerves on edge. My son has two of the three major risk factors that are linked to the deaths. I find myself phoning the pediatrician daily to see if they have received their allotment of H1N1 vaccinations. The pediatrician has promised them to my boys when, and if, they ever arrive. I feel like a six year old in the back of the car asking “Are we there yet?” with every call I make. Annoying, but I don’t like the idea of catching this flu bug and spending a single fall or winter day in the hospital.

My preparation for the predicted downpour will consist of tossing an umbrella and jacket in my car tomorrow morning. I think weather folks are blowing the whole situation out of proportion because they finally have something other than “sunny with early morning clouds” to report. Storm Watch will be breaking news for the next couple days here. Those icy people in Michigan would laugh at what we Californians call a storm.

Just an observation: I have noticed that female meteorologists in California have large perky chests, perfectly coifed hairdos and pretty faces. Why is that? Maybe that is so that the average southern California viewer will tune in to hear the exact same thing she said last night, only in a different colored tight sweater? For the next few days she is going to have to do more than point and smile, because it is finally going to rain in Southern California.

Thursday, October 8, 2009


Every day is a present just waiting to be opened. A fantastic gift hides inside, or a stink bomb ready to explode. You really don’t know what lingers inside until you start to unwrap it, one hour at a time.

Yesterday, when Lucas announced his desire to run for President of his school, I was thrilled…opening up a beautiful, glowing, and brand new outlook on his young life. All of a sudden the box appeared filled with excitement, hope and loads of encouragement. Today, while the daily gift was unwrapped, the stink bomb exploded and I would have preferred to crawl under a rock, than push forward with peeling away the wrapper.

Lucas’ 7th grade presidential campaign almost nosedived into political oblivion and I was suddenly wondering if I would be the “First Mother” or the “First Mother to Post Bail Bond.” Lucas is a quick wit, creative, loves to be the center of attention…he is intelligent and passionate about life. The backside of those qualities? He is impulsive. This is  toxic when combined with a physically absent middle school teacher and twenty five hormonal, awkward tweens crammed in one class room. When the teacher slipped out, the entire class saw it as a license to go berserk. Have you ever seen the movie Gremlins? It was something like that.

A friend suggested that Lucas jump on the desks… and then two other of these so called “friends” dared him to do it. Who doesn’t love a good dare? Lucas.

So, he burst out of his seat and jumped from desk to desk, messing up papers and entertaining his classmates like popcorn in hot oil. Once his performance ended, he sat in a chair that was pushed by a boy into a new table that broke under the intensity of his feet stopping the impact. It was a brand, new table, probably made in China.

In yesterday’s blog, I noted that he would make a great politician, due to the fact he was honest, could not cheat on his wife or have a homosexual affair. I failed to consider that he has a genetic trend toward Barnum and Bailey's Circus (I admit I ride a unicycle) and this does not always equate to a fantastic role model or upstanding leader.

“Maybe the political arena is not his calling…. maybe I should teach him the ways of the unicycle and juggling oranges?” I considered, for only a nanosecond.

The stink bomb had officially exploded, and the next thing I knew I was confronted by the principal (A.K.A. my boss, as I work in the fourth grade of his school). I did not relish this part of my day.

Smiling and nodding, I knew my boss was recanting the truth, what could I say? I wanted to crawl under that rock I mentioned earlier.  I had an understanding grimace on my face, as my insides felt weighted with disappointment like a bowling ball in quicksand. Then she mentioned the part about the cost of the new table and the fact he is running for school President. I explained he could forward his five dollar a week allowance until college to replace the table…. As for the privilege of running for school President? That was out of my hands. I completely understand that the ideal leader of the kindergarten through eighth grade student body should not have Jack Black tendencies. I assumed his political career would end at twelve, after two swimmingly successful political years serving as the Athletic Liaison and Vice President. What a let down.

Lucas is the honest kid I knew he was. After this happened he, and the other child involved, tracked down the principal and apologized, admitting their poor choices. They offered to pay for the table. They wrote letters of apology during recess without prompting. They felt guilty and were sincere in their act of contrition.

Hearing this, I felt a bit better, but still, why, why, why? I could not wait to get him in the car for the ride home to listen what was filtering in his head.

It feels like just yesterday I was praying that this very young lad would survive all his congenital heart issues, two open heart surgeries and ventilator dependency. I ALMOST felt fortunate to be in the position of watching him screw up his George Washington opportunity with foolishness. Crazy, huh? Perspective is in the eyes of the beholder in this unusual situation. But, don’t get me wrong. I was maternally disappointed in him. Deeply. Completely sad and droopy after all that upsetting information about my son. I came home, after putting in five hours at that school, and had a good cry on my bathroom floor with the door locked. Such is life. This is the way it goes. Most can accept that we all make mistakes, but could the staff forgive him for his lapse in judgment?

Lucas was repentant. He wanted so badly to continue his political future and run for the Student Council President, although I had kissed this notion good bye. I could not blame the administration if they impeached him before having a shot at serving his constituents. I was anxious and waiting to hear what would happen next … besides what had already been firmly determined:

1. Lucas lost the privilege of playing video games and using his i-Pod until the age of eighteen, or a few weeks, whichever came first.

2. Having to serve detention after school

3. Forgoing his $5.00 a week allowance for the rest of his life to pay for his part of the table

4. Hefty parental disappointment and undergoing intense discussion with his parents (Dad dealt with this situation beautifully)

5. The counting of his mere twenty-one dollars plus loose change in his piggy bank

6. Feeling like he blew it

The call came in on my cell phone, from the teacher in charge of the Student Council. Whew! He was still in the running, but would need to apologize for his circus behavior in front of the class tomorrow. Lucas became nervous wondering why he would need to do this. Here we go again from square one….blah, blah. Blah!!

Aahhhhhh… he gets it (again). Apparently he really enjoys politics because he put his pen to paper immediately. Easy enough. He molded his words and I gave him strict instruction to have no jokes or sense of humor in delivery, but to be genuine, sincere, or there is no shot at the White House of Private School….his political career depended on it. Next he put together his presidential speech to deliver to the school in a couple weeks…it is due tomorrow to be reviewed and approved by the Student Council Queen. He had many great ideas, but I put the kibosh on him doing the Michael Jackson Moon Walk on his way to the podium. And the Worm.

“This is not summer camp Lucas, it is an election…. you have to be a responsible, trustworthy leader…a dramatic voice inflection is okay, dance moves, no way! NO MONKEY BUSINESS!! “

His practice run went well on both speeches….I will let you know what happens next.

Note to self: Should I be worried?

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

School Politics

After serving his year term as Vice President, my son decided not to run for a position on his school Student Council. Running for office and winning the past two years, he claimed to need a political sabbatical because he did not like how the weekly meetings interfered with his lunch break. Play time over politics.  I can’t lie…. I understood his reasons for not running, but I was disappointed. See, I was hoping that Student Council would be his niche, as he is a great leader….. so creative, innovative, smart and funny. Unlike real-life politicians he is honest, won’t cheat on his wife or have a homosexual affair. I thought his future in this arena looked bright. I did not nag him about it, but told him all the qualities I saw in him that made him a great candidate for any position. Please stay involved, I kept wishing….Still he wanted to goof off at lunchtime instead of planning Spirit days, like Wacky Wednesday, and mapping out future fund raisers. End of story.

Today was the final day that a student could turn in his petition to run for an office. This form simply requires 10 student signatures (constituents), two teacher endorsements and a parent’s signature. Parent’s having to bless the extra work load that comes with a win. This is the first time in three years there will be no campaign posters designed or spirited speeches written under our roof. The last two years Lucas has handled his own marketing campaign….coming up with the idea to “Step up and Vote for Lucas” was his slogan last year. He asked me to take a picture of him standing on a ladder. Cute, and it worked. Another year he handed out gummy candy eyeballs that said “Keep your eye on Lucas for Athletic Liaison.”

There there is this whole sweets campaign that goes on for one day, and one day only, where candidates bring in candy and pass it out to the student body in an attempt to sway the vote. It is parallel to Halloween night, but on a school day. Most of the 250 kids, whose parents are paying for a private education, are high on sugar most of this day. Every student loves this event that leads up to the LONG (sometimes boring ) speech assembly, then voting day, which is often held on the first Tuesday in November . It is treated like National voting day, but on a smaller scale. There are private voting polls all decorated in red, white and blue and students don an “I Voted” sticker when they are done casting their ballot. Very patriotic.

I received a cell phone text from Lucas at 11AM today, kindly asking if possible that I hustle down to school and  sign his student council petition that was due at noon today. He decided, at the very last possible minute, to run for school President!

What? Of course, I was willing to oblige his request. I scooted to school, anxious to find him.

My first question was, “What made you change your mind?”

He explained that a friend asked if he was running for office and when he said no, she encouraged him. Kaylee told him he should run because he is “really good at stuff like that.” A couple kids around him confirmed those words and Lucas was ready to hit the campaign trail. Basically, it was the same thing I had said a week ago, but now it was packaged by his peers, so it sounded more attractive.

“ I told you that you were a good leader,” I affirmed.

“ Mom, you tell me I am good at everything, so I have a hard time believing you sometimes.”

Regardless, our home is now officially Presidential Campaign headquarters.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Patrick Swayze

I just finished reading “The Time of My Life”, Patrick Swayze’s autobiography with his wife, Lisa Niemi. Being a teenager in the eighties, I was familiar with Patrick’s hit movies Ghost and Dirty Dancing, watching them both multiple times. My knowledge of this talented actor ended there. Biographies are my favorite reading, so I gobbled the back-story up on this hunky ballet dancing cowboy. That’s right, he was a rough cowboy whose nickname was Little Buddy, hid dad was Big Buddy, and he loved nature, horses, playing football and ballet dancing. Those hobbies just don’t fit together, but it worked out just perfectly for him.

While reading the book I started feeling blue inside, realizing that this genuine guy who wrote this story so beautifully had died. His book was released in September right after he lost his battle with pancreatic cancer. The book touched me so deeply that  I feel like I am going through a grief period over this complete stranger. It is sad to think he is gone.  He was such a neat guy….so un-Hollywood! His honest account of his insecurities and struggles touched me. Patrick was constantly pushing himself, and his fear of not measuring up was always present. The insecurities he felt were real ….not being loved for who he was on the inside , being really hard on himself .….and he was Patrick Swayze! He was so candid about his low self-esteem. I think every human has part of this struggle built in their DNA, unless you are Dennis Rodman or some either egomaniac -freak.

Patrick Swayze was also a drinker, mostly at times when he was feeling defeated or like a big loser he would sink into a boozy haze. Isn’t that normal for a lot of actors and many folks in general? It can be so numbing to have the demons in your head quieted with alcohol and he knew it too well. I appreciated the truth in his story, attending rehab and how alcohol almost destroyed him and his marriage.

Patrick Swazye met his wife when she was 15 and they married when she was 18! They honeymooned in the dirt, camping under a tent for a week, and they loved it. They started out so poor, artsy and simple …even when he made it big, he still kept a non-glitzy lifestyle. He craved his rugged outdoorsy groove at his horse ranch named Rancho Bizarro and reveled in the one love of his life. Having only one marriage in Hollywood is anything short of a miracle, and these two made it work for over 30 years! Knowing that fact made me curious enough to buy and read their story. How did they stay married all those years? I just had to find out. Their love story was my favorite part of the book and it is a testimony to their friendship, shared interests, struggles and strong commitment to one another. I feel sad for his wife, Lisa, over the loss of her husband and best friend… like I said, after reading this story,  I felt like I knew him personally and am sad Patrick succumbed to cancer after a 20 month battle.

Something that I took away from his story was the importance of keeping your dreams alive. Once achieved, or when you get as close as you will ever get, move on to the next dream. Don’t ever stop dreaming big for yourself….always chase the dream in front of you. That is what Patrick Swayze did over and over and over again.

Great Read!

Monday, October 5, 2009

Oh Poohey!

We are on a rotating schedule to maintain a poop-free yard and to insure that our two dauschunds, Sara and Goldie, receive fresh food and water every day. Each week one kid is in charge of food and water and my other son has to do poop duty. They have to unsoil the grass a couple times a week,(visitor pending), and the rule is that on Saturday the poop-picker-upper has to do a thorough clean up job before handing the dreaded poop utensils back to his brother. This system works for our family.

A few days ago, we were scrambling in the early morning, getting ready for school, taking care of dog duty and making lunches. Daniel announced, “It smells like poop!” he had moved on to practicing piano since his dog poop duty was complete. He declared twice while practicing "Michael Row the Boat Ashore,"  that he smelt something awful.

“Oh, Jeez," I thought, “One of the Wiener Sisters had an accident. I just know it was Sara, she thinks she can do whatever she wants with that Cattitude of hers. We have not had an accident in almost 8 months!”

I scan the area, particularly the big white carpet near to the piano for a fresh doggie load. No evidence is found on our white 8 X 10 shag. I regret buying that stupid rug every day of my post-house-fire life…. Overstock. Com sucked me in on a killer deal with a fabulously affordable sheik shag rug that I thought would bring my 1983 track house up to date. But it was a hasty horrible d├ęcor decision I must live with every day…. At least until my money tree starts blooming or house catches fire again. My Lesson learned? Never EVER utilize the color white where dogs and young boys are cohabitating.

“There is no sign of poop, Dan.” I declare.

I ignore the bad smell announcement, as I don’t stink a thing….it must be him. Minutes later, Daniel is in the den, and again he announces, “It smell like poop!”

Quickly examining the surrounding wood floors and huge rug ( Now it’s the other rug in shades of burnt orange and browns I am searching. All great color choices in this rug) I don't see, nor smell  anything  incriminating or suspicious.

My subconscious is moaning,” Go away poop smell, we do not have time for you.” I have no idea what his nose is picking up. I ponder.

“Daniel, did you brush your teeth this morning?” I suggest as I tuck the last PB&J in a lunch bag and run to the laundry room to pull out my cottons before they wrinkle.

Five minutes later Daniel is in his bedroom when he announces. “Mom, I smell poop!”

I am so puzzled at this point, but prefer to act like everything is normal. I truly CAN NOT smell anything out of the ordinary. Kids have such sensitive smellers, I think ….and then….

“Mom, there is some dog poop on my shoe.”

I walk to his bedroom, where he is sitting on his striped rug (Yet, ANOTHER other purchase that fits perfectly in his nine year old space and can hide many stains in its busy colorful stripes; great choice).

It is an understatement that he has SOME poop on his shoe, a result of his dog duties 20 minutes earlier. It looks more like he has lathered his bottom right shoe in dog doo, sort of bathed the undercarriage of his foot in it and then sensed the weight of something hiding underneath it and rubbed it over, and over onto the top of his left shoe, trying to scrape it off without knowing what was adhered….again he repeated the scuffing whatever it was off. It was two pounds of fresh daushcund wetness that now frosted both of his school shoes. I am positive that is what it was because I pulled a shoe off of his foot and pulled it into my nose in disbelief. I looked around my home and saw poop prints on my Overstock. Com rugs and in four different rooms. So he REALLY DID smell something that awful!

Suddenly, I had potty training flashbacks. Do you remember the first time your toddler went number two in his drawers and you earnestly tried cleaning them... thinking it was the right move to save the two dollars worth of Bob the Builder panties? That is the sort of routine a mother does ONLY ONE time because it is one of the most retched disgusting tasks she undertakes, then realizes that it is not worth the sensory torture. The next time it happens (and it does) , you toss the destroyed undies into a VONS bag and deliver them straight to the trash can.


There was NO WAY I was going to clean off these kiddie shoes I practically stole from Target 75% off, and try to salvage them at the risk of destroying my fragile nose and the next 24 hours of my life. (That is 24 precious hours that I can never reclaim.) Why just last weekend I ran these very shoes through the washer after Daniel returned from a weekend of swampy frog catching at camp. They returned a blackish-brown color. I was ready to toss the stupid cheap shoes, but my frugal husband gave me a guilt trip over giving up that easily. Engineers!!

Last week I did the best I could to resuscitate them . However, there is nothing I could do to save them now, they were on their own and heading straight to a VONS bag for an early death.

So the next time any child declares the stench of poop around him I a stopping in my tracks and taking off his shoes. It will be a much simpler sacrifice to delay making sandwiches and getting us out the door on time, than believing that ignorance is bliss.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Lucas' First Blog Post

Peeling my twelve year old from the television, I demand he find some other way to spend his free time. It’s a Monday night. His father and little brother are at an Adventure Guides meeting and I am perched in front of my computer. Trying to steer Lucas in directions that don’t include a screen (reading, sports, crafts, and laundry do not naturally interest him despite my nagging....and whittling wood and fire play is not an option). I suggest that he try writing, for the 27th time this month. He is a quick wit and I imagine nothing could be more entertaining than a tween boy’s real life perspective.

“What do I write about?” he moans, slowly showing interest.

“Sit down and write about your sliced finger. Tell me how you experienced it and what you remember about that day.”

He starts typing away and I am thankful I forced him to become intimate with Mavis Beacon (before video gaming and TV) over the lazy summer months. Despite having a stitched scabby index finger, thirty minutes later he has created the following account…ahem.

I have stitches
How???? Well…
The answer is a boy, tree, and a pocket knife. Yep, a pocketknife. I was up at Lake Sequoia, four hours from home. It’s near Bass Lake, and has some other camps within its perimeter. It’s a pretty big camp with archery, a rock wall, boating, swimming, fishing and a lot of other really fun things. It was about four o’ clock when we got there with my other friends. We unpacked and walked around this enormous camp. My friends started to whittle some sticks to make them sharp, so I asked my dad for his Swiss army knife. We whittled, and then went in the dining hall to check it out. It was pretty cool. My friend and I played Mancala; a marble board game.

It was around dinner time when my friend and I started shoving the pocket knife in a tree. I did not lock the pocket knife, and due to pressure the knife closed on my finger. About 5 seconds later I noticed the cut, it wasn’t too bloody…yet, but it was to the bone! I ran to my dad, finger up, applying pressure. (Aren’t I smart?) My dad wanted to know when it happened and where, but I screamed, “CAN WE FIX THE CUT???!!!”

So we showed one of the leaders, Ronny, and he cleaned up and bandaged the cut. I felt all cold and dizzy, but I didn’t faint. (Whoo.) About 10 minutes later we left for the hospital. It was supposed to be an hour away, but at 8:30 at night my dad got lost and we got there at like, 10:30. We checked in and all that stuff. They called me, my dad, and my little bro into a room. They asked about my medicine and medical past, but that’s a whole different story. When they took off the bandage wrap the nurse said “you need stitches,” before I could count to three.

We sat in the really miniature room and waited. And waited. And waited some more. Then finally someone came in to check on us and get our billing information. Then this other nurse came in to set up for the doctor, and clean up my finger. About 6 or 7 minutes later the doctors came to check on us. He told me to try to bend my finger. It was kind of hard, but after that my finger started bleeding really bad. He wanted to see if I cut one of my tendons, I did not, and I was HAPPY. Then, I had to use the restroom, which was challenging. When I returned, I got two numbing shots on both sides of my right-hand pointer finger. (Luckily, I am a lefty.) When my finger was numb and clean, he sewed the stitches in. I was scared, but it only took five minutes to put in all four stitches. It was really cool. We called my mom and told her everything, at around midnight when we got out of the hospital. We stayed at a hotel and got back to camp the next day around 9:30 in the morning. The rest of the camp was awesome! I couldn’t swim, but I didn’t care because I don’t like cold lake water anyway. I could do archery which was fun, and I got a couple of bull’s-eyes. (Yes!) That camp was amazing! I totally recommend it. It’s called Camp Sequoia.

So, that’s how I got stitches that stayed in my finger for a week and four days.

The End

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Part-Time Fourth Grader

Twenty hours of my week are spent with over two dozen of the neatest nine and ten year olds. The best characteristic of this young mind is that they are no longer whiny first graders and not yet difficult tweens. Holding on to a little innocence, they still interact in sweet ways; a clear indication that the ugly world has not seeped into their behavior…yet. They will eventually land in middle school, and a simple puzzle or math numbers game will be a bore. Believe me, I have a seventh grader. I value my class of fourth grade kids even more when I hear all the drama, rough housing and emotional pain the middle schoolers scoop out every day. I’d rather have a raging case of acne than return to Awkward Central. Fourth Grade is a safe place where personalities and differences have formed but peers are not ready to condemn them for diversity.

For example, some kids speed through their math page and the answers are all correct. Telling them that they have a “Great Math-head”, I put a big red happy face on their paper and they shuffle over to Free Math Time. This is just another name for playing constructive games with the other speedy math wizards. A few kids struggle one problem at a time and still have an incorrect answer. Their pages display eraser burn and it hurts the mommy in me to tell “Susie” that the math problem is STILL incorrect (for the third time). At that point, I watch her step by step, stopping her when she reports that 9X6=45. Ooopps, try again.

I am building inner patience every day with these children. My job forces me to slow down in addition to brushing up on California history and math conversion. (Did you know there are four pecks in a bushel?) If you knew me, you would know that this is a much needed improvement to my rush-rush, fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants-impatient-ways…In a few years, I should be able to channel Mother Teresa. Or, at the rate I am going, maybe Einstein.

Math is such an exact science; an unforgiving subject. Either the answer is all right or all wrong. It doesn’t seem fair that partial credit is not awarded for an almost, really close numerical right answer. Especially after all that sweaty mental work! I remember my Math days. Understanding double digit multiplication, I could do the work, but would be one smidgen of a digit off. Wrong. Redo. Wrong again. Now a different number is incorrect. Can I AT LEAST have a teeny-tiny, red star for effort? I don’t need a huge star, just a little sumthin’ to make the last 15 minutes of doing the same problem over and over feel productive. Sort of like a math booby-prize? I would LOVE to start awarding a math booby prize, but am sure my teacher would not agree with my positive reinforcement of wrong answers. It’s a shame.

The good news is that each child has some sort of strength whether it be hand-ball, science or spelling. Hmmm, spelling… now that is a whole other subject that deserves delicate observation. Stay tuned.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Home of the Big Mouths

Being raised in a gregarious Italian family it came natural to talk with hands flapping through the air while sharing words or ironing out family kinks verbally. My parents and sisters yelled at one another when casually speaking. Firm. Loud. Totally normal to me.

No one was REALLY mad from what I could tell. At least most of the time.

Voluminous voices were part of everyday conversation. Hot topics like “Who ate the last Oreo?”, and “Do you know where my dolphin shorts are?” were shouted in what sounded like anger, but they were only an inquiring question. I assumed all families related this way.

I was shocked when I ate dinner at a grade school friend’s, whose house sat library quiet. It was an awkward sort of foreign peace that made me wonder if I had done something wrong. Even as we ate, this family was quiet, reserved and tame. I felt like I was dining and in a time-out simultaneously. Very , very different than dinners at my house.

My family still hangs out regularly. I would like to think we have piped down over the years , unless playing Balderdash or some other interactive board game. Then the only clatter is each of us barking at one another for the stage floor. Or trying to talk over one another. Louder. Swinging hands dramatically for emphasis and knocking over a wine glass. This is how it goes.

For example, when playing Balderdash a word like CLINCHPOOP comes along and all you can hear is the howling laughter over possible word definitions. If you have never played Balderdash ,enjoy words and love to laugh, this is a game you must buy…… In case you did not know, a clinchpoop is another name for a slob. When visiting with my family, the room comes alive like a three ring circus; it is laughter loud, entertaining and spiked with energy without all the elephant droppings.

After fifteen years of marriage, my husband’s still surprised how my family verbally relates to one another. Ralph told me that when we talk, adding on the words “What the Hell?” or “Dammit”, after most sentences would sound appropriate. This is based on our gruff tone and direct choce of words……Example:

“I did not call you a clinchpoop! (Dammit!)”
” I was trying to help, Mr. Grumpy pants. (What the hell!)”

I think Ralph might be right. We sound more intense than we intend, but we are hardwired this way. Oddly enough we understand one another ninety percent of the time, with no offensive taken. Concerning my sons, I want to lower my voice and deliver words in a gentle non-Italian-like manner but this does not come natural.
“(But what the hell) I will keep on trying (Dammit).”

Thursday, September 24, 2009

More Mometer

Earlier I mentioned my Mometer, pronounced like thermometer minus the THER. This amazing mechanism houses sensitive inner feelers that regulate maternal instinct. I think it is located in every cell of my body, but I am positive that Mission Control is in my heart. I assume all mothers possess this in-house sensor that can alert us for many reasons.... Let’s say your child is near danger, a kid is emotionally struggling, exaggerating or lying….those are just a few of its many functions that pop into my head. Over the weekend I experienced my Mometer signals flashing in the red zone when my son sliced his finger with his father’s pocket knife. Being four hours away from them, I perked up and started to worry, wanting to be with my son. In his voice, I heard fear and nervousness and a quick Mometer check (a slow deep breath) said I was right. He was frightened. Any medical situation will activate my maternal gadget immediately.

This same twelve year lying in the Emergency Room registered on my Mometer a couple months earlier for a totally different kind of lying. He was packing up to spend the night at his friend’s house. I walked into our dark garage and there he stood with his stuffed overnight bag, his hand dipped in one of the side pockets and a sly, guilty look on his face. My Mometer started to register; I had to pursue this situation.

“What are you doing in the garage?”

“Um, nothing.”
My signal felt stronger as I looked at his stance.

“Why is your hand in your bag? What is in there?”


He slowly removed his hand from the duffle pocket and rested it on his side. Hmmmm. I was picking up something stronger now, and my Mometer told me to dig deeper. Walking over to where he stood, I put my hand in his red bag pocket and pulled out a lighter. Busted.

“You lied to me. Why are sneaking this? Are you smoking?”

“Mom,” his voice cracked, “I know where Dad keeps the lighters and my friends told me to bring one. We were going to play with the fire pit outside. “

“How do you play with fire when there is a fire pit already lit with fire? Are you smoking?”

“No, mom. It was just for fun”.

“Is it fun to burn down your friend’s house? Is it fun to lie to me?”

My Mometer registered that he was(now)telling the truth. It sensed that he really wanted to mess with the flame. Wondering if he is a future pyromaniac, I lectured him on fire danger and how disappointed I was that he lied. He had never lied to my face before, or at least had never been caught. Feeling sad inside, I took the lighter away and glared at him showing deep disappointment with my eyes.

When I told my husband, he shrugged his shoulders and said that it was no big deal; he understood. I called my father and he chuckled saying he did the same thing when he was twelve, then he went on to tell me about his juvenile pyromania days. Both men were casual about what I thought was worth concern and punishment; but then I have never been a little boy. As a girl playing with fire was not tempting. Unbeknown to me, boys have this curious desire to control fire in all of them. Mothering two boys, I am certain that young males are accidents waiting to happen. My Mometer just confirmed it, so it must be true.