Holiday Update

Apparently, the tragic death of my dog took all the writing wind out of my sails. It's been nearly a month since I've blogged. But, with the arrival of Thanksgiving, my happiness has returned and with that a sliver of productiveness.
Therapy arrived in the form of my annual trip to The Ranch for a raucous Thanksgiving Celebration with my mother's huge Irish Catholic Family. This is reason enough to get back on the writing wagon and throw some fabulous details at you in black and white (and maybe even a color picture).
It began on a brisk sunny day on a sprawling cattle ranch in the south county. Oh, it looks like your typical ranch, the rambling old farmhouse, every new addition protruding and more awkward than the last...another bedroom here, a bigger kitchen there. Throw the oversized front door open to meet a curved mahogany bar decorated with silly items like stained glass shamrocks and dried bull's balls mounted on a wood platform hollowed out to hold the pool chalk (yep, you heard me right). The bar overlooks an antique pool table but it's not for playing this weekend, instead, it's covered and decorated with a gold damask tablecloth, a collection of old silver candlesticks and an Asian urn full of pomegranate branches. This is where all foods Thanksgiving will mingle for a brief moment before being heaped and mounded onto 50 some-odd plates for a giant meal. Yeah, there are more than 50 of us in this family.

It has taken me 30 some odd years to recognize the abnormality of my family. And equally long to discover the rare beauty and charm of my very eclectic brilliant and good humored family. I am Thankful.

The coolers are packed full of canned beer, the horse shoes lie in their pits awaiting a toss, the bar is stocked, the ping pong table is out and the fire pit stands at the ready, piled high with firewood for the late night show.

Truckloads of hooting cowboys and city folk alike piled high in the back of diesel dually trucks bumping along the dirt road around the back of the big white barn. They raise their cans of beer in unison with every jiggle of the truck, like a silent choreographed cheer. Their bright smiles all hinting at a shared secret, knowing they are part of this wonderful family, knowing this ranch has a magical charm about it when it is teeming with happy family and friends.

Here's a picture you may only see in Hunter's Safety Class, with a caption reading, "Not Safe".

I just want to point out the many people handling loaded weapons. I should also add that the "Skeet Thrower" was one handed, the other hand occupied by a cold Coors Light. And periodically, a rogue clay pigeon would veer far right or far left. I would like to point out the bottle of beer standing at attention beside my cousin in the lower right corner. I will add that that particular cousin is a brilliant man who I recall made a hobby of rebuilding computers at the age of 12. His wife works at Stanford. And in the opposite corner, you'll notice a group of people hovering in the back left corner preparing to take a picture. At one point, a rogue pigeon flew far left, 12 shotguns following it as it zoomed dangerously near my mother, who had backed down the hill, farther into gun territory, to take a picture of her sisters smiling in the morning sunshine. OMG.

Before you peruse the following two pictures to complete this warped image of Family Fun at the Ranch, I want to add that this bullets and beer family tradition has successfully run for decades with no (knock on wood) injuries.

Okay, on to the final scene. In the picture below, I want to point out my beautiful sister, wearing designer jeans, a full face of makeup and reloading her shotgun. Yeah, that's her in the purple blouse. She is one of the best markswomen in the bunch. You'll also notice the truck parked on the far end of the shooting line.

The truck is parked there for delivering the family members, their guns and of course, this:

This takes us into the early afternoon. So many more details, more drag queens, more to come....


Catching The Red Eye

I was sitting at a crowded art table in my daughter's kindergarten classroom. It was free choice time and there was a gaggle of little hens gathered around this table, amass in construction paper and glue. They chatted at each other, never bothering to make conversation interlace.
"Ava's in Hawaii right now."
"I'm going to make my mom a crown!"
"Where did the glue stick go?"
"I like cookies with milk."
Seriously, it was like listening to dinner conversation between my sister and my mom and I. Where each woman is coughing up the first thing that crosses her mind without any regard for relevance. Listening was optional.
One little precocious blond turned to me and said, "Ava went to Hawaii," and then she yanked at her lower eyelid and continued, "She got The Red Eye."
(Apparently an overnight flight to Hawaii was a literal experience in a kindergartner's mind)


Romantic in Napa

The word ROMANTIC is not in my marital vocabulary. But over the years, I've learned a few tricks to getting what I want, and our latest overnight getaway certainly included plenty of the R word.(giddy happy dance, much jumping up and down)
Here's a little recap of how it all played out (in discreet details, of course). John has a quarterly meeting in the Napa Valley area so I've been honing my travel agent skills for just over a year in this area.
My favorite up to this point was The Napa River Inn ($150+, nautical theme rooms, gas fireplaces, on the Napa River, great coffee and pastry shop in The Historic Mill attached to hotel, walk to downtown restaurants/bars)
This trip, we had the glorious pleasure of staying in Yountville (a mere 10 minutes North of Napa, and 10 minutes south of St. Helena), having never even noticed it before! For starters, this is where The World Renowned French Laundry Restaurant hails. And if you blink, you'll miss it AND the mini village of Yountville.
I did not choose The Vintage Inn for it's French Country decor-sssooo NOT my style. I chose it for two reasons: #1 Price-it was the ONLY 4 to 5 Star hotel under $300/night, and #2 Romanticism-Sunset Magazine posted a list of their "Most Romantic Hotels" in the Napa Valley and again, The Vintage Inn was the ONLY one under $300/night($252 including tax, to be exact).
Oh, yeah, and I should mention I am a high ceiling type of girl and this place boasted vaulted ceilings...also wood burning fire places in every room, whirlpool bathtubs, balconies, a CHAMPAGNE BRUNCH (gorgeous, scrumptious AND complimentary), complimentary high tea complete with cucumber cream cheese sandwiches and warm croissants, Uh, YUM! The pool and hot tub is open 24 hours!!! Yahoooooo!
The balcony in our room looked over the freeway (eeuw) and beyond were the ruby vines of Domaine Chandon. We sipped cold beers and lounged in the Adirondack Chairs for a few moments before splashing into the GIANT bathtub. Weee! (I promised discreet, and thee shall have). In addition to the monstrous ceilings, king cushy bed, fireplace, balcony and french doors, we also had a sitting room-I think it amounted to 450 square feet-which is bigger than my kitchen/living/dining room combined. Vintage Inn Poster Girl, That's ME.
The front desk, upon check-in, inquired about our dining intentions (huh?), and made solid suggestions as to where to go, calling to make our reservation and tipping us off to the "Walk In Tables" at Thomas Keller's restaurant, Buchon, available for those "In The Know". Apparently, if you're a guest at The Vintage, you are In The Know. We skipped through town (well, maybe not we) to Jessup Cellars for an intimate wine tasting. Then off to dinner at Buchon under the stars. Walking through town in the brisk night air was an added bonus to the romanticism of our evening. And then back to our high ceilinged room for a crackling fire!
May I just say that champagne brunch should be a daily requirement? HELLooooo Mumm!
Love the Napa Outlets, and equally love the ridiculously cheap hand car wash next to the Napa Outlets. Had my car detailed while I shopped. Sweet!
Grgich Hills. Heitz Cellars. Hurley's for a mediocre lunch back in Yountville.
Absolutely the most lovely 24 hours I've spent with my man in a very long time.
PS Other hotels I researched and liked the looks of, Bardessono in Yountville (extreme modernism). One hotel we visited, Napa's River Terrace Inn, was inexpensive, but lacking in style and luxury. Not recommended.


More Dog

Aside from all the major events and accidents in Kiley's life, there were countless quiet, satisfying moments too. This dog had my number. She knew when to comfort me. She knew when to keep her distance. She knew how to make me laugh.

She would let out a long heavy sigh and I would unconsciously repeat the sigh. A few moments passed and Kiley would sigh back.

There was a point in time, before I was distracted by the joy of children, when I would joke that Kiley was so intune with me and my emotions that someday soon she would just up and blurt out some English.

She "did the happy dance" in front of me before going on a run. When the girls came along, she took to doing the happy dance in front of the stroller before a run. This would make both kids giggle the whole way.

As every pet owner feels, this special bond, these memories, this pocket of my happy life that included my loving animal are forever playing in my heart. I know that I cannot replace Kiley or the memories we shared together with her.

Because Shelby's old enough to realize the tragedy of losing our dog, she and I have had many conversations about what happened to Kiley. How it was an accident, no one's fault, and how Kiley is in heaven now. We have talked about how Kiley isn't coming back to sleep at the foot of her bed.

We framed a beautiful picture of Kiley and put it up in the living room. We have a plant dedicated to her memory that we will plant in the yard. Shelby has suggested we return to Kiley's grave and decorate it with flowers (which I think is a brilliant suggestion just as soon as I can pull myself together for it).

And we've made a habit of recognizing the army of fleas in our house as Kiley's "itchy kisses" for us to remember her by. Every day gets a little easier.

I'm not sure I will ever pull into my driveway without expecting to see her tail wagging a greeting from the yard. That's going to be hard to forget.


The Story of A Dog

I've been missing for awhile. I've been mourning for awhile. It's hard to believe I published the previous post beginning with "I've adored my chocolate lab for 9 years..." considering the recent tragedy this week.
My darling puppy died in an accident last Tuesday. She was hit by a car, that she was chasing (I know!), and died on impact. Thank goodness for that much.
Having never faced a death in my immediate family, or close circle of friends, before this, I am beyond devastated. It took me three days to be able to answer my phone or even mention the reason I was so sad. I have finally run out of tears.
I think, in her honor, I will tell you all the story of Kiley and her beautiful personality, her life, her journey, and the memory she leaves with me and my family.
Once upon a time, I was a teacher in a small 2 trailer-park town surrounded by unusable flatland as far as the eye could see. Even the principle/superintendent lived in a trailer. I scrambled for material every morning before opening my classroom door to a ragtag bunch of first graders who faced everything from second hand smoke (so bad that smoked filled the classroom every time I opened Michael's backpack to retrieve his homework) to malnutrition (poor Natalia's family, Russian immigrants living in a 2 room trailer with their 6 children, couldn't afford all the food groups, or treated water, which left her skin an eery shade of pasty white with a hint of chartreuse and her hair-completely natural-a greenish copper, matted and unbrushed).
So I'm scrambling to organize myself before school begins and there's a series of little knocks on my front door. I open it to a parade of mothers and students crowded around my door holding a gaggle of silky brown puppies.
"Mrs. P! Do you want a puppy?" asked a little second grader. His family lived on one of the few ranches around here and his mother chimed in, "Our chocolate lab and the neighbor's yellow lab had an affair a while back, now we have 9 puppies to give away."
I'm not a dog person. I don't care for the slobbery kisses or the shedding, I especially didn't need a dog. In the same breath, I was a bargain hunter who new a good deal when I saw one. A FREE $500 purebred puppy?!
When I arrived home, I shared the offer with John, who STILL hadn't proposed, but had always been a dog person. I tossed the idea around in my head in hopes of solidifying our future together, sort of like a crazy person tries to get pregnant so her boyfriend will stay with her. Okay, but not that crazy, it was a dog for goodness sakes, not a baby. And I was warming up to the idea of a companion at my little lonesome place I lived in. I knew the potential for dog companionship. I had just never experienced it.
Before I knew it, I was driving down the freeway in my new convertible, a laundry basket in the front seat with a little lump of chocolate fur curled up inside. I pulled up to John's house and lifted her out, where she immediately threw up on me. Dogs get carsick, too?
John and I were raising a puppy. OUR puppy. She would spend most nights with me, getting up early to run the mile dirt road in front of my house. In the morning, John would take her with him to the winery, where she would ride on the quad with him, drive to vineyards in the flatbed with him, and play with the other winery dogs. She learned to chase rabbits, and followed the lead dog (a white lab) around the property,learning doggy etiquiette (which butt to sniff, how close, how long), swimming in the pond and barking at birds.
One wild weekend, John dared a friend to eat 6 King Size Snickers and drink 6 cokes in one hour (which is impossible). The guy nearly made the bet before puking all over the front yard. Hahaha. Funny until we realized Kiley had licked up the mess and coincidentally ingested a fox tail at the same time. Our first vet bill, $250.
We took Kiley to dinner parties with us. We took her camping, to Lake Nacimiento, to the snow in Tahoe. You can imagine us driving to my parents house, a 3 hour drive, in my 2 seater convertible with a 40 lb puppy in my lap. She never did, in her entire life, stay in a kennel. Not once.
When we got married, we entertained the idea of tying the rings to her collar and letting her bring them up the aisle. Yes, we did.
There was the time she and my brother were playing fetch with a golf club and a tennis ball. He swung, she jumped and the club made contact with her head. She did a complete flip in the air and when she came down, her ears were crooked. It lasted for a day and when she stopped getting attention, the ears were even again.
She learned to jump off the end of the dock at Lake Nacimiento and later, swim safely with the girls in the lake.
We took her to an eclectic wedding when she was 5 where they roasted a pig and built outhouses all over a 20 acre parcel for guests to use (eclectic...). She managed to sniff out the remains of the pig carcass and gorge herself on it throughout the party. She rode home in the front seat of my convertible, John following in his car behind us. The entire way home she kept gagging.
"Something's wrong with Kiley!" I shared as we pulled into the driveway of our new home.
(To Be Continued...)


Lice Nits and Fleas, oh my!

I've adored my chocolate lab for all 9 years of our life together. She is calm and patient, sweet and quiet. Last week, after a $350 trip to the vet, I was introduced to a product called K9 Advantage for, what else, FLEAS. In all 9 years of our dog/owner life together, never once have I used a flea product on her.

I raced home, applied the medicine and began scouring my somewhat clean home for evidence of the problem. It wasn't until the following morning, on moving a load of laundry off my bedroom floor that I noticed a small black bug (smaller than an ant) on a white hand towel. When I reached for it it shot into the air. What was that?!

Naive idiot of Earth, meet Ctenophalides Canis, the common dog flea.
I crawled on my hands and knees around the house in search of more evidence. When I stood up, I discovered I had been scraping the skin off my stomach due to a cluster of red raised bites around my belly button. I peeled the sheets off the beds to find three fleas IN MY BED! Those F&*$%ERS were sleeping with me?!?!
Having never experienced the joys of flea infestation before, I looked it up on the internet and educated myself in flea battle. I burned up the vacuum cleaner in the first three days. I accumulated so much laundry on my garage floor it's spilling out into the yard. I blew through three cans of overpriced RAID Flea killer. With these toxic levels in my house, I'm guaranteed the arrival of a three legged grandchild in my future. The pest control guy is scheduled for tomorrow. The carpet cleaners are here now. I already spent the kids' college fund on. laundry detergent and bug bombs.
When I arrived at kindergarten today, scratch scratch, my head tingled with more thoughts of where those damned itchy buggers could have gotten. I was corralled by a mom the minute I stepped into the classroom, "Do you recall getting that Lice Exposure Warning last month in the kids' cubbies?" she asked. I scratched my head and nodded. I had checked Shelby's scalp for 2 weeks after that news as was suggested. She continued, "Well, we got lice again this week. So you might want to check your kids out again."
My head was on fire with itchiness. It was all I could do run out of there with my girls in tow and head straight to the nearest drugstore for more battle weapons. Because that's what I must have: LICE. I haven't stopped itching my entire body since the flea infestation. And now, in addition to having fleas, I HAVE LICE.
And just like that,I formed a new category in my itchy head, where both the dog and kindergarten have fallen, labeled, "THINGS I USED TO LOVE WHICH HAVE RECENTLY BROUGHT ME IMMENSE ITCHY FRUSTRATION."
Not knowing exactly what I was looking for (apparently, I was raised in a bubble), I took the precautionary road and pulled into the Rite Aid parking lot. Scratch, scratch. I trudged through the store followed by a giant black cloud looming over my head. It had red flashing lights on it that blared, "WOMAN DEFEATED".
Armed with bottles of RID and a determination known only among professional athletes and hospital janitors, I rinsed, combed and rinsed both my daughters heads. I raced through the house spraying more toxic potions (now they'll be four legged cyclops grand kids, for sure) and peeling every piece of fabric out of the house to join the rest of our everythings on the garage floor. Where's that "Official Laundry Service" when you need 'em?
John arrived in time to comb the scalp clean off my head.
And when he finished, he looked me directly in my red, itchy, defeated eyes and said, "Babe, I didn't see anything that looked like lice."


Halloween Night Spooks

For the past year or so, I've left the sleepless nights of infant life behind and settled into a welcome routine of 8 uninterrupted hours of glorious slumber.
My girls are of an age where they know the bedtime routine, they welcome it. And more often than not, they fall into a deep 9 to 11 hour sleep leaving me and occasionally my husband, when he's here, to enjoy the fruits of our labor-alone.
It wasn't easy getting to this point, but laying down the "No Kids in Bed" Rule early, set us up for a glorious freedom we now cherish. When I walk into my childless bedroom, the crystal candle holders, the soft lighting, the enormous plush bed gaping open at the sight of me. This is my space, our adult room. Sure, there's a collection of stuffed animals tucked into the closet, and my make up drawer hasn't been organized since my first daughter could walk. But I'll take the good with the bad and manage to keep the floor beside my bed clear of legos and baby dolls.
And then, Halloween happened. And for three nights running, my FIVE year old has come running into my room at various ungodly hours of the night crying and yelping to climb in our bed. WTF??? All my careful planning, years of discipline, what about the "No Kids in Bed" Rule??? And now I share my cozy bed space with a 55 pound body blanket.
Last night was the last straw, 1:40 in the friggin morning and here come the whimpering cries and pitter patter of five year old feet. And suddenly we're wrestling each other at the edge of my bed.
"Shelby, you cannot sleep in my bed tonight!" blocking her path with my open arms.
She ducks around me and continues a frantic crawl up the side of the mattress.
"Shelby! Come on! Let's go back into your bed. Sissy's in there, you're not alone, it's okay.... (she's still crawling in place with my hand on her forehead-realizing I need to up my ante, I groan) I'll come lie down with you."
No luck. She's determined to make it into my bed and she's not listening to a word I'm whispering.
So, in frustration, I remove myself from her path and begin my slow trudge toward her twin sized bed. Hoping she'll follow.
But before I get there, I stop for a potty break and settle onto the cold seat while I listen to John try to reason with her from our bed.
"Shelby," he says through clenched teeth, "you cannot keep coming into our bed. You're a big girl. You need to go back to your room. Mommies already in there."
Next thing I know we're having a family party in the bathroom while Shelby continues crying and whining about wanting to get in our bed.
John makes his move to lift her into his arms and deliver her to her own bed when she goes completely boneless. Her entire body flops onto the floor in an effective five year old tantrum complete with loud crying. It's dark, it's cold.
It's 1:45 in the morning, for goodness sakes. WHAT IS GOING ON!!?!?!?!
After what seems like hours of grappling to get her into her own bed, I lie down beside her in the dark and ask, "What's the matter with your bed? Why do you keep coming into my room?"
More whimpering.
"There's a vulture in the corner over there, Mommy."
OHHHHH. Okay, that vulture right over there behind your door is the reason your dad and I haven't gotten any sleep for three days?!?! Well, lemme just give that vulture a piece of my mind, shall I?
I mean, really. With no cable, no TV, and a limited opportunity for exposure to anything inappropriate, apparently one trip to Halloween Headquarters, a few night walks around the neighborhood and suddenly I have ginormous feathered fowl in our house. I fully intend to address that horrid beast tonight BEFORE we turn out the lights. And I'm crossing my fingers that Halloween Fairy skips our house tonight so we can all get some sleep. Get lost VULTURE!!!


The Naked List

All this talk about nudity has sent me into a frenzy of personal hygiene, self help and physical improvements.
Here's what I've pondered as of late:
A. When did my ass turn into a mom butt? I swear, 5 years ago when I had time to look at my butt in the mirror all the time, it was a tight, 20 something pair of perfect round melons. A few years, a few babies and WHAM! Mom Butt. Saggy, Flabby, Droopy and spreading outward into the thigh region. WTF?
B. Breast Augmentation. Yep, that's right. I've talked about it. I've joked about it. But all of a sudden the thought of getting naked has pushed me to the next step-actually researching surgeons. And lemme tell ya, checking out all those boobies online can make a girl feel pretty good about what she's got up top. Wow, there are some really sad looking jugs out there in the world.
Which brings me to my next point: BREAST PARANOIA. I have developed a visual equation for determining how many women in my every day routine already have implants. And I've decided every woman has them. From the yard duty lady at school to the waitress at our local taco stand. No normal woman wears a size 2 jeans, has less than 5% body fat and sports 32 Ds up top. It's just unfair. And the ratio size 2: 32D rings true everywhere I look lately!
C. How shall I go about evening out the color of my skin? Should I go with the stinky lotion or all out tanning bed? Should I focus on dissolving my bikini lines or just darkening all over?
D. Self Purpose. I step out of my car at the preschool with a new little secret. I'm going to bear all in front of a camera! There's a twinkle in my eye, a new reason to tighten my ab muscles every chance I get, and I have a lightness in my step as I walk the tightrope between motherhood and sexy vixen land. (Of course, I'm always on the lookout for another gravity defying ratio-size 2: 32D)
E. Skin Hygiene. How is it that I put a photo shoot on the calendar and the closer the date gets, the more my skin freaks out?!?! Not only do I have three very unwanted zits on my face, but my dog is apparently out to get me, too! She brought us the gift of fleas. I now have a red version of the big dipper pock marked around my belly button. Is that a gray hair on my head?????? OMG.
F. Should I go with a Brazilian Wax job???



I was invited to do a photo shoot in a calendar fund raiser for a local women's non-profit agency. Yep, 32 years old and asked to do a photo shoot. A picture of just me (no family coordinating involved). Naked.
Guess that means I don't have to obsess over color coordinated outfits.
I immediately said, "Yes!" After all, how often does a girl/mom get asked to have her picture taken by a professional...alone? And here I am, being an every day mom, and looking pretty good considering how many babies I've popped out of my hoo haw. Somebody quick! Take my picture before I fade into a wrinkled mess! I'm gripping the last wisps of my youth with a two handed death grip, "I...still...look...goooood."
And then, after a day of turning this over in my mind, and inspecting my sagging ass cheeks every minute I got, I shared the news with who else, my sister. "I'm going to do a nude photo shoot!"
And then, without hesitation, she offered a response I did not see coming, "Did you talk to John about it?"
WHAT?! Talk to him? WHY?
I thought it would be a nice surprise to get a calendar of his naked wife....Okay, well, it IS my body. Half of the North County has seen it naked from the worst angle while I squeezed out a few babies. Lord knows he's seen it at it's best and worst for the past umpteen years.
Why would I talk to him? Why would he care?
And then I turned this suggestion over in my mind. I'm SURE he would be thrilled. Wouldn't he? And then, I spent the next day grappling with the ethics of this situation.
Why am I so excited about this? Well, for one, I would get a photographer ALL to myself working hard to make me look my best for a picture. Because, as a mom, every time I organize a family photo shoot, it is inevitable that every shot reveals my frazzled exhaustion. There it is, perfectly frozen on film, my forehead screaming, I just shopped for 3 weeks to get the perfect outfits for my family to wear in this stupid picture, and I forgot to iron my own shirt! My eyes aren't focused because they're trying to check all the other family members at once to make sure they're smiling, they're looking right, their diapers are clean and they haven't spit up on their dress yet. The plastic smile says it all: I forgot to worry about myself in this picture because I'm too worried about everyone else. And this isn't the first time.
So, as you can imagine, we have a few professional, expensive, family photographs on our walls, all capturing MY worst side.
Let's see, my husband's line of work allows him regular press meetings and photo shoots, even one modeling stint where he had a FULL PAGE (and beautiful, I might add) PICTURE of him, complete with a list of every clothing item and its price.
I think that everyone deserves to have their beauty captured. I think my daughter's deserve the right to see their mother photographed at her best. To one day, when they've wheeled me into a home and they're cleaning out my closet in search of all my valuables, to come across this beautiful picture of their mother in her 30s, a beauty, a vixen, a little scandalous. I would LOVE to see a picture like that of my own mother. I would LOVE to relate to her in that way. To see her confidence and her beauty captured in black and white.
So why wouldn't I jump at the chance to have MY picture taken?
So I talked to John, and he voiced his opinions. And he ultimately said, go for it. But he warned me that there may be repercussions. That I wasn't allowed to voice regret. That the picture I envision may not be the end result.
Well, okay....and, I guess, and oh hell, I get a photographer ALL too myself! MISS JULY, Here I come!


Dragon Girl Came To Town

The single parenting life is wearing me down. And apparently has an equal or greater effect on my children. Yesterday, Shelby's alter ego "Dragon Girl" came to visit. For over an hour our entire household burst at the seems with the deafening shreeks that can be produced from the depths of five year old lungs. Dragon Girls lips turn a deep shade of violet when she reaches the climax of her rage. Some windows were broken, only one neighbor called the police. My ego was beaten down into the resemblance of a flea. The carpet was smoking.
Dragon Girl made an exit to her room after slamming her door multiple times (apparently her Dragon Strength was waining at this point). Thankfully, silence settled over our house again, and after a few minutes, Shelby emerged from her bedroom, leaving Dragon Girl to roam the Earth, once more. Now, about that carpet...
Later that same day, Dragon Girl returned just as we were leaving the park! (Rats, foiled again) That little $%?@! refused to get in the car. (Fine by me. I closed the doors and put the key in the ignition, who needs Dragon Girl burning up my interior anyways?)
She threw on her super screaming megaphone and blasted my windows out, then clambered into Shelby's car seat and proceeded to wail at the top of her lungs the entire 15 minute drive home...or maybe it was a 15 hour drive. Whatever it was, there wasn't any traffic because the cars kept pulling over to the right every time we approached.
When I got near our street, I was so fed up with these visits from Dragon Girl that I decided to try on my own alter ego.
Enter, Monster MOM.
Monster Mom tried out her screaming voice in the car for a change. And she thought it felt pretty good. So she screamed until she pulled the car into the driveway. And then, she screamed a bit more while both kids were still strapped in-a captive audience can be very fulfilling. Dragon Girl was looking pale.
"I've HHHHHAAAADDDDDD IT with Dragon Girl! She's GOT TO GO!" yelled Monster Mom.
But Dragon Girl had something else in mind. And she mustered up all her strength, and belted out the loudest, longest, "STTTOOOOOPPPPPPP SCREEAAAMMMINNNGGG AT MMMMMEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!" the entire neighborhood has ever heard. It was so loud, her seat belt buckles exploded right there. It was so long, the ceiling liner in our car began to smoke.
Monster Mom was already gone(what kinda superhero is she?). I was left to my own devices. I rifled through every privilege in the book and then threatened them all in one fell swoop. In my most calm and collected voice I offered "Get in the house and go to your room for 5 minutes,......please."
And it worked! Dragon Girl made her final exit for the day.
Until next time, Dragon Girl...


Marital Blinders

We band together like cattle the moment we are married. It's like that aisle and the white dress leads us to a quick stop at the altar and then we're granted a ring on our finger, a pair of blinders and sensible shoes. We are unavailable, contented, self confident married women. Our goals are different than those single heifers now.
We seek them out, those women with a ring on their finger. Finding a new girlfriend who is not married breeds unrest in the marital herd. We stick to our own kind.
No longer distracted by the bulls in our pen, we married girls are looking ahead to new achievements, like bed linens and childbirth. We leave our keg parties and wild nights at the bar behind for civilized dinner parties. We set our dining tables with silverware and limit our guest list to even numbers. We toss out the red party cups and learn to trust our guests with glassware. Not only has our manner of dress altered, no longer highlighting our most female characteristics while carousing about in the night, but so has our manner of speech.
We are more refined, we join book clubs and garden parties. We trade our one night stands and kiss and tells for chats about throw pillows and salad tongs.
We are married women. We have babies, we lactate. We digress to discuss hormones and feeding schedules.
And then, after years of contentedness, we encounter a woman, a mother with a career, a potential friend who can relate, who knows where we've been and sees life from the same side of our fence and who is (gasp) DIVORCED!
Well, okay, we tell ourselves, no big deal. She's still in the same boat. She's one of us. She has kids and a job. It's not like she's dating-she's a mother for god sakes!
But she is dating.
She's dating the hot young teacher at a school across town. He's tall and handsome. He's intense and eclectic. He rides a motorcycle. He's ten years younger.
The married heifers set their sights on her. They start to notice things. She's got a bounce in her step and a new zest for life the rest of us have forgotten about. Our marital blinders slip just enough to get those gals thinking. To get them remembering.
The thrill of a new love interest. The excitement of a first date. A first kiss. A late night phone conversation.
And all this thinking leads us back to ourselves. Our own lives. Our own marriages. We reminisce about the moment we fell in love with our own husbands. The bounce in our step that slipped away with the weight of a wedding ring. We live the memory of our first kiss. The joy in that first date. Our focus shifts from marriage to ourselves. The body we once flaunted, that we handed over to our daughters with every swelling trimester. We stare down at our sensible shoes. And when we look back at our life again the blinders are on once more.
We look inside ourselves for a lightness in our married gait. We find delight in our beautiful children. We buy a pair of sexy shoes. We ask our husbands on a date. We kiss, for the first time, again. The blinders are on, but we find a new way to walk.


Ironic? I think not

In my last post, I mused about a $1200 pair of boots. An extremely unrealistic purchase price in my life right now. But, and go figure, I had a few of you (women) egging me on to dip into my kids' college fund to buy myself perfection in the form of plush leather footwear.
Then, much to my surprise, a few days passed and I found myself standing in an art gallery, loving husband by my side-no, this wasn't a dream, he was ACTUALLY there-both standing, staring, and falling in love with a $1200 piece of art.
It's a sign.
No, it's kismet.
Well, whatever it is, so long footwear, hello salvaged scrap metal wall mirror.

(BUDGET CLAUSE: There's not an ounce of truth in my wallet that says $1200 is a reasonable amount of money to spend on anything besides practical staples like a sofa, or a computer, or some amazing piece of jewelry involving large diamonds.)


The Perfect Quest:Leather Boots

I've been on a quest for the perfect pair of leather boots for about 7 years now. So far, I've accumulated one pair of nearly perfect brown suede wedge knee highs (Nine West), an incredibly uncomfortable but very sexy black suede Michael Kors stilleto boot, and nearly a year's worth of wasted hours spent obsessing online for the perfect leather boot. Not too frumpy, not too sexy, not too simple, not too uncomfortable.
I've pined for a pair of Campers. Swooned over Stuart Weizmann's. And drooled for LD Tuttle. And recently, as the hours accumulated and what's left of my good reason dwindled, I eyed a pair of $1200 perfect leather boots.
And I am wondering, "If I hocked my shorts and bought this seemingly perfect pair of debt ridden black leather boots ...if my husband didn't shit his own eyeballs first...and slipped them onto my feet, would something inside me feel different? Would I see the world through the same rose colored glass every owner of $1200 shoes does? After all, it would be like roller skating across a lifetime of dollar bills, right?"
Well, it's almost midnight and I didn't put those $1200 leather boots in my shopping cart (so I could close the window and they'd disappear).
I decided that one dollar bills aren't supportive enough for the lifetime of my feet. I'll just have to keep looking.


Smart Moves

I've done a few stupid things in my parenting career...like leaving the baby in the cart while I loaded a 6-pack of beer in the car only to realize that the cart had rolled away and down a curb....it's a miracle my children have survived all my idiot moves. But, Murphy and I agree that for every action there lies an opposite and equal reaction.
And the opposite, and completely intelligent things I've done lately are listed below:
#1. Hired a house cleaner. (So I can like my children again)
#2. Arranged for a weekly babysitter so I can work (because juggling kids and clients gives me the sweats).
#3. Enforced time-outs based on "Age Minutes". And when she can't stay in her room for 5 minutes, she loses privileges like gymnastics class, or riding her bike. It works.
#4. Signed my girls up for gymnastics and ballet class. Activities that fill those cranky hours before dinner.
#5. Did I mention I hired a house cleaner?
#6. Used the iPod and earbuds to survive those cranky hours before dinner. Pop those babies in and my girls can scream their heads off for all I care, "Girls Just Wanna Have Fun" really gets me in the groove for putting the dishes away!

My Talented KinderGirl

Shelby's kindergarten teacher corralled me after school the other day and demanded my cel phone number.

"I want to send you something and I want to see your reaction! It made my day and I sent it to a friend who works in the corporate world and hates her job. She'll just want to quit knowing I get to do this every day!"

So, with obvious anxiety, I awaited the arrival of her forward to my cel phone as we stood on the playground after school.

What I received was the following video of my daughter at recess.

The kindergarten teacher had attached the message she sent to her corporate friend, "I love my job! Here is to loving life." And as I watched with love and pride, I could hear Shelby's voice in my head telling me how she was the only one who couldn't do the monkey bars at school. Coordination doesn't seem to be her problem:)


Day #29: Single Parent

I lost my ability to reason last week. Which is why I agreed to arrive as a family to Shelby's tap dance show and then let John take the car without us to work. "Oh sure honey, leave us stranded 3 miles from home to rely on public transportation at nap time with no lunch, no diaper and NO CAR!"
Fast forward to the part where I find myself being blown around by the wind while carrying my 25 pound toddler on my chest and pushing my oldest in the stroller...uphill. They both started crying at the bottom.
We made our way to the top and took cover in a restaurant near the bus stop. I must have looked like I stepped off the crazy train when we rolled into the quiet lobby with my hair in every direction and my children wailing like fire engines.
The restaurant door closed behind us. The wind stopped. The screaming stopped. And for one celebratory moment, I found calm. And then I exhaled loudly. And attempted to right the wrongs of my coiffe.
And just as I made eye contact with the nearby bartender and signaled "Mommy needs a Bloody Mary, STAT", I heard, "Hey, girl! What's happening!?"
It was my high school neighbor. By this, I mean, a guy I went to high school with in my hometown 15 years ago in a place that is located hours away from where I currently live with my husband and 2 daughters, and who happened to move in to a house 3 blocks away from us last year. For some, this would be a happy circumstance. For me, it's a little creepy weird. Especially since he has continued his relationship with my at-one-time-very-serious ex-boyfriend from high school. Who visits his house occasionally, three blocks away from where I now live.
Anyway, I make my way over to where he and his wife are posted up in the bar area just as the bartender slips a well garnished, giant Bloody Mary (as big as my headache) into my hand. Suddenly, the tripping up of the stroller, the fact that Shelby is dragging my cashmere scarf around the floor, that Ana has climbed onto the handlebars of the stroller to reach a very breakable object on the wall, doesn't matter anymore. I have adult conversation AND a stiff cocktail in my hand and my dilapidated brood just discovered that somewhere on the brink of meltdown land, there is an oasis called "Dorn's Restaurant".
Minutes go by and we are seated at a comfy booth with bread, crayons, and momentarily, french fries and bowls of soup. The girls are miraculously well behaved and I think my hair has returned to it's usual arrangement on top of my head by now. And just as Ana has finished the cutest, loudest rendition of "The Itsy Bitsy Spider" to the nearest onlooking tables, she announces her finale by pronouncing, "Mommy, there's a poopy in there" as clear as day.
And then my hair stood on end, my purse spilled its contents all over the restaurant floor (no diaper), Shelby resumed her screaming in the middle of the dining area, the diners' dropped their jaws, and their forks and gasped. It was a scene out of a Mommy Horror Film.
I gathered my mess of a family, spilled the soup on the floor on our way out, and couldn't locate the exit fast enough.
Come to find out, our bus had just pulled away from the stop (without us) and we were destined to remain outside the restaurant (in full view of the dining room) for the next half hour awaiting the arrival of the next bus. For all practical purposes, 30 minutes is a tolerable wait, until you consider the contributing factors: past nap time toddler, exhausted 5 year old, MORE WIND, poopy diaper. Thirty minutes can last a lifetime when you're stranded on that hell hole of an oasis called Dorn's.


From Zero to Five in 3.4 seconds

That first week when a mother returns home with her newborn she experiences a complete metamorphosis. Not only in physical stature, from round bellied pregnant beast to sagging marshmallow that somewhat resembles her past womanly shape. A mom becomes a mom in that first week. She retreats to her shuddered lair, changing diapers (both the baby's and her own), offering up every ounce of her self to this suckling infant and all the while wonders, "Will I ever leave my house again?" and "Will I ever take a shower?" and "Is breastfeeding my only hourly destiny?" or "Will this child ever let me put her down?" It's mommy boot camp. And her soul becomes willingly intertwined in this child's, and her intellect aligns in all things baby, she is a dumbed down, softened, selfless provider, and she becomes a mom.
After 12 months of mothering an infant, moms arrive at the finish line. They've retrained themselves to drink alcohol, they've weaned from breastfeeding, they've nearly eliminated night feedings and wake ups, and suddenly, like a light switched on, they look in the mirror and realize that they have neglected themselves for an entire year! WTF am I wearing???? Where the hell did my make up disappear to? How long has my gym membership been expired? I actually wore these jeans two years ago? What was I thinking?
Yep, the mothers of one year olds are like blossoming teenagers, discovering the usefulness of their newfound bumps and curves. WOW! I finally got my body back! Now, what can I put on it?
The following years are blissful and challenging, falling in love with your fiery toddler while mustering up the stamina to discipline them. Finding a bit of time to yourself, a new pair of shoes. And then comes preschool. For three years all you've asked for is a break! And now, you finally get one-to the tune of hundreds of dollars a month- and the first day of school you shed a tear ...and then you twiddle your thumbs for the next 3 hours while you wonder if your little angel is happy in there. By day two, you're wishing her school day was longer because three hours isn't nearly enough time to get to the grocery store and back again. And soon you increase her school week to three days. Then four. You sign her up for soccer and ballet. You upgrade from the fancy diaper bag to the fancy handbag. You are driving her all over town but you know that driving around is far better than staying at home with her. You already did that for an entire year!
Then baby number two arrives and you're back to square one, 12 more months of mommy boot camp+selflessness+driving around town looking lost and frumpy. Your leather handbag becomes a battered diaper bag. And then you blink and your oldest is off to kindergarten. And you're trying to keep up with her hectic schedule, her homework, remembering to pick your toddler up from preschool, and drive them both to soccer and ballet, and shower, and find your makeup, and instead of twiddling your thumbs or wishing for longer days, you're scrambling to figure out a way to breathe. And just as soon as you do, you're trying to find a way to get in that kindergarten classroom just to be with her. Wait a second. For five years you just needed a break and now that she's all settled in at her new school you want to be with her????
Yep, she doesn't need me anymore. And now I need her. She gets herself dressed, she talks on the phone, she goes to the potty all by herself. She even knows how to brush her own hair. She marches into her classroom and she knows the drill. She doesn't look back anymore when she says goodbye. She's walking away and I can see past her, all the way down her road to college. She's all grown up in one fast blink.
And I'm standing here, I finally have time for a shower and I can put on my makeup, I'm armed with a new wardrobe and a new found sense of myself, I renewed that gym membership, I got rid of the marshmallows, I got the break I asked for. But it's not how I expected it. It all happened too fast.


What if I Don't LIke Her Parents?

Shelby has attached herself to a pony tailed little girl at kindergarten and taken to calling her "my new friend". From where I sit, she seems nice enough and has announced each morning on the playground that her dad is going to call me to set up a play date.
A few days go by and we have the September birthday party at school. "My new friend"'s mom shows up, wearing an oversized t-shirt and Levi's from 1991. She's a teacher at the Catholic School. She is direct and serious and informs me that her daughter would like a play date and weekends are the only time they can make that arrangement possible.
All of a sudden, all the fun has escaped me. I picture our children chasing each other around the park while this woman and I sit across from each other on concrete benches, wearing pressed business suits discussing the state of agriculture today and what the stock market has done to BP Financial this year. (That doesn't make any sense because I don't know anything about that stuff). I am scowling at the sunshine. We are sharing a spot of tea and adjusting the tightness of our business girdles.
Parenting just got a lot more formal. What do I do about this proposed play date with a woman that isn't fun?


Happy Birthday Baby Girl

You're turning five years old today Shelby and everything is ready. We've strung the streamers across the kitchen, we hung your Happy Birthday sign, we've wrapped the presents and set them on the dining room table, we've managed to transform our living space into a magical birthday room just for you as soon as you wake up this morning. It's become a family tradition to mimic the "Christmas Morning Wow" whenever a birthday person starts their day (Surprise).
You requested a chocolate cake with strawberry frosting and flower sprinkles on top. You also requested steak, corn, garlic bread and "sweet beans" for your birthday dinner. A pretty sophisticated dinner request for a five year old, I think. Although you asked for a cell phone for your birthday, your father and I decided on a few items a little more age appropriate this year. I braided your hair last night so it will be all frizzy this morning. And you picked out a special birthday dress that has been hanging in your closet for 6 weeks now just waiting for this day.
I am writing your card and a wave of memories just flooded the living room. Save the cake! You're coming home from the hospital and your dad and I are sweating bullets in the hospital parking lot-we haven't secured the car seat and we can't figure the damned thing out in 100 degree weather. We read and re read the installation manual and finally settle on strapping it the best we can. I ride home next to you with my arms bolted across you (just in case).
The months fly by and you are asleep on your daddy on the sofa, he's curled around you and snoring away. You are playing peek a boo in our bed on a sunny Saturday morning, the sunlight illuminating the blond fuzz on your head. Your first birthday is bigger than our wedding. The cake is three tiers. You potty train yourself before two, and take to wearing my high heels everywhere, even on trips to the grocery store. You love dance class and rolling in the sand on the beach. You are a happy child who knows how to wink, you love making us laugh. You start preschool, I cry. When your sister arrives, you are so enamored with her you won't leave the hospital room. You stay for 6 hours until daddy has to drag you out. You and your dad spend an afternoon on the lawn learning how to ride your Dora bike without training wheels. Suddenly, we are jogging through the streets of our neighborhood chasing you on your two wheeled bike. You begin gymnastics class, you can slide down the pole at the playground, you can pump the swing, you can boogie board. You started kindergarten. You're determined to master the monkey bars "like all the other kids". You read me a story all by yourself. You sing a song you made up. You are sweet and sassy, sharp and cautious, laughter and broken swimsuits (bikinis) at the beach. You are pink sparkles, spinning and jumping, toenail polish and cuddles, sand castles and lovebug hugs. Happy Fifth Birthday, my sweet baby girl. Everything is ready..... except for me.


Top Ten Things I'm Pondering Today

#1. Why my husband insists on growing a beard every harvest. (Eeew, creepy!)
#2. For my entire natural born life, my parents never swore in front of us as kids. Why is it that now, at 32 years of age, my dad has taken to educating me on the countless uses for the word F&$!?
#3. When asked what she wanted for her birthday, my almost five year old daughter responded with, "Um, like, a cel phone??"
#4. Since finalizing the latest vasectomy, I've suddenly realized that not only will I never be graced with a bulging baby stomach, but that I'm going to be a PMSing PSYCHO every 28 days for the next TWENTY-TWO YEARS!!!!AAUUUGGGHHHHHH!!!!!!
#5. Since harvest began, I've realized that loneliness does not become me, nor does single parenting. Both drive me to drink. A lot.
#6. Is there a way to speed up menopause?
#7. What is up with my dog's anal glands?
#8. If you ignore the dust on your floors long enough, does it eventually get bored and disappear?
#9. Coffee and beer are the spice of life. Vodka is the answer to every problem.
#10. Shout not only removes black nail polish from wool rugs, but can also remove the pen ink stains from a load of wash, AND, when used in conjunction with a wool brush, remove permanent pink Sharpie from flagstone patios. (Maybe I should hire a nanny.)


A Mom's Week in Review

It started with the nail polish. The black nail polish bottle that somehow cracked open and burst its unremovable contents all over the 13 foot wool rug in the living room.
This incident was followed by explosive poo on the girls' carpeted bedroom floor.
(Never mind the fact that last month I insisted on shampooing the carpets, furniture, AND rugs in our house)
The next day was Scream Your Head Off in Public Day.(Didn't you hear?) This theme was emphasized during the muy importante phone conversation with a bank lender regarding pur potential refinance. Uhm yeah, WHAT DID YOU SAY?!
The carpool kid slammed her finger in the car door on my watch. Can we say FIRED?!
This morning, while visiting with a neighbor in the driveway, my angelic almost five year old took a pink crayon to the rims of my car. Oh hell no.
And finally, the all too unforgettable, under no circumstances does any partially sane mother offer to take a THIRD child to Costco for lunch and shopping in addition to her own tired and hungry brood (trust me, I know this NOW).
Having threatened them with their lives if they so much as thought about getting out of the cart, I managed to accumulate over a half ton of merchandise wedged in, on and between three toddlers. They sampled everything from crab dip to licorice sticks and still managed to find a reason to screech like eagles throughout the store. We added at least an extra hour to the trip in Chinese Fire Drills. UNDER NO CIRCUMSTANCES MAY YOU GET OUT OF THE CART.
I heaved my three ton vessel up to the check out and released my prisoners....who immediately ran from me in every direction with their hands tucked inside their shirts screaming like wild ninnies and body bumping eachother every chance they got. One armless toddler fell to the dangerously hard concrete floor, her head just centimeters from a trip to the emergency room.
The checker glanced over her shoulder and then looked my aching, limp body up and down before saying, "I never drank as much as I did when my kids were that age." And then she wagged her head in the direction of the three girls, laying armless on the concrete, shrieking at the top of their lungs.
So which aisle does Costco sample the tequila shots?


The Nail Polish Incident: a 2 day disaster

On Sunday, my morning began with a bottle of black nail polish...splattered all over the wool rug in our living room. Black. Nail Polish.
It was my seventh day without a husband (harvest). Needless to say, much Shout, plenty of cursing and many beers followed.
On Monday, I awoke to the reality that despite the consumption of copious amounts of alcohol the day before, I had not escaped my life as a stay at home parent. And, after sending my oldest off to kindergarten, today was the day I had arranged a sitter so I could "accomplish something" sans kids for two hours.
It was a brilliant plan, Holly and I had agreed to split one babysitter at her house while our oldest were away at school. Half price babysitting!
I arrived at Holly's house to meet the sitter with a kid in one hand and a death grip on my cup of coffee in the other. The clock was ticking, my stomach was reeling, and the babysitter met me with bright eyes and an eagerness that only furthered my nausea.
OMG, Miller Tall Cans....
Holly had her oldest delivered to preschool and her baby asleep in the crib. She was primping for her anticipated few hours away.
I slid onto her sofa and surveyed the floor to make sure it had stopped moving while the sitter anxiously entertained Ana.
"Holly," I muttered, "mind if I lock myself in your room for a few hours and sleep this off?"
And the Mother of The Year Award goes to...



I recently received a novel sized packet from my daughter's school PTA. There was the 14 page informational, the fees, the request for donation, and then a request to sponsor another member. (Redundant me thinks)
Then the giant glossy magazine for fundraising and the nineteen sheets of incentive coupons and reports of fundraising success. An entire hour later, I emerged a more educated parent, with far fewer dollars in her pocket, a mountain of guilt on her shoulders and ink on her hands.
And just when I thought I was done, I came across the three scholastic book orders.
All said and done, I had written exactly SEVEN CHECKS. Totalling $163.74.
Then, I penciled in my volunteer schedule for working in Shelby's kindergarten room. Of course, I would have to pay the sitter to watch Ana while I was away. Another $96 a month. This public education was getting expensive. Not to mention unnerving!
Since school began a few weeks ago, I have spouted every detail of my family history, my child's health and wellness, her medical records, dental records, our insurance information, I might as well give up the details of my sex life while I'm at it to the school secretary. She better know we're practicing healthy safe sex in our household of four Caucasians with upper level college education and a history of heart failure and no food allergies. I'm pretty sure the government is now tracking us with a homing device.
Hey PTA, I'm right over here...


Pediatric Pedicures

Let me first begin by saying that I am not a woman of luxury who gets regular pedicures. I enjoy them, but they are not in the budget of a stay at home mother in a household of one income.

It all began with a trip to the lake, which, this time of year is more of a stagnant stream in a muddy basin. I took the girls for a family visit where we found ourselves sploshing through dark, dense mud and swimming in shallow water swirling with darkened silt and more mud. Upon our return, I took a scrub brush to my black toe nails. I showered regularly, I waited for my corroded, black nails to disappear.

The stain remained.

The day of our departure to San Diego, I stared at my disgusting toe nails. This would not do. A pedicure was in order. An emergency pedicure.

I devised a plan to take my active 2 year old to the salon while Shelby was away at school. The morning flew by and before I knew it I had acquired the chaos of both girls, it was afternoon, and my toes were looking blacker than ever.

I was desperate. I dragged both girls to lunch and then, armed with cookies, books and surprise toys, walked into the nail salon with the desperate determination.
One hour later, we emerged with sparkling pink toes. The girls toes were even adorned with teensy white daisies. Pleased with my success, I contemplated admitting this completely inappropriate outing to my husband. What sort of spoiled brats were we raising? Toddlers in a nail salon? REALLY!?
And before I could come to a decision, Honesty vs Amnesty, the decision was made for me when Shelby grinned from the back seat, her hot pink toes pointed straight in the air, and announced, "Mommy, I think we should do this a lot more!"


Late Night Driving

In theory, it sounded like a perfect plan: head to Back To School Night and then hit the road for San Diego after 7 p.m. The kids would be fed and exhausted, and were sure to sleep the whole way. Not to mention the absence of traffic.
Reality brought our jam-packed vehicle to a screeching halt just 3 minutes into our drive when we were corralled into one, yes ONE, southbound lane as we pulled onto the traffic jammed highway. Seething and cursing, we inched southward while the kids whined and cried in unison.
"Are we there yet?" they asked.
It wasn't until after 10 that the girls finally fell asleep, but it certainly wasn't devoid of interruption. Ana squealed on cue every 30 minutes throughout the drive and when we had to stop for gas just 45 minutes from our destination, BOTH of them awoke and refused to go back to sleep!! We pulled into the hotel parking lot just before 1:00 a.m. Exhausted, and fearful of the next hour with both girls wide awake and brimming with excitement.
"It's the middle of the night ladies," I warned, "Don't think you're going to stay awake when we get to our room. It is bedtime and the whole world is asleep!"
Bedtime was 1:35 in the morning. And yes, this was a pertinent circumstance in what proved to be a cranky, uncharacteristic performance for the entire weekend. No amount of mandatory naps or time-outs could snap them (or us) out of our 1 a.m. arrival.
We paid for that late night travel for three days.
Never again.


Shiny Rock Syndrome

A few days ago I described my case of Shiny Rock Syndrome, the opposite of OCD. It was such a poignant article that BlogHer even advertised it. Educating the public about this illness is the first step in finding a cure. Millions of people are suffering from this sickness right now! As an illustration of my life as an SRS victim, here is how my day went:
1. Pour a cup of coffee, go to get the cream
2. Notice there is a plate of old leftovers to be thrown away
3. At trashcan, notice all the dishes from yesterday filling the sink, clean one and open the dishwasher, which is full. Stop. Remember the cup of coffee, get the cream
4. Shop online for new used cars
5. Get distracted by some advertisement for airline flights
6. Begin budgeting for my family trip cross country in New Zealand-I have miles enough to buy TWO tickets already!! And the price of a motor coach hire is only $1500/week!
7. Remember my children's book idea from yesterday-open a Word page and begin writing my book about Sam's affinity for sweets
8. Answer the phone
9. Begin the mountain of dishes in my sink
10. Pick up Shelby from kindergarten, go to the bank
11. Finish writing my book
12. Call my sister to tell her about my book
13. Color with the girls, and draft what my character, Sam, might look like
14. Write a letter to a publishing house
15. Call my mom, I'm really excited about this book
16. Edit the book
17. Make dinner
18. Bathe the kids while editing the book
19. Burn the mac and cheese I forgot about on the stove
20. Make more dinner
21. Get kids out of bath but leave them naked, get distracted by recent emails
22. Clean up Ana's pee on the floor, dress girls in pajamas

This is a life of distraction and little efficiency. Please, help stop SRS. Call or send your donation to Cultured Nativity, 1234 Besting Way, Shell Beach, California, 1-800-STOP-SRS


A Cup of Crack

My family had been invited to the "Playhouse Follies" last night to watch Mimi tap dance alongside various other magicians, comedians, ballerinas, singers and skit performances. Sort of like a circus on stage. Since my husband had suddenly developed worker's syndrome, leaving our "family night" less one member, I struggled with the idea of managing two kids (again) for a public outing. And then, just as soon as my anxiety appeared, I was slammed into a phone booth and transformed into Super MOM!!!! Slinky red cape and all.
"Well my dearies," Super Mom proclaimed, "Looks like we're having a 'Girls' Date Night'! Let's get pretty because Daddy's going to buy us dinner before the show!!"
That's right, I decided to take both my daughter's out for a civilized meal in a public place....alone. With my trusty cape, a pair of tight denim slacks and some cashmere, I bathed and dressed my children and headed out in search of a fine dining experience where this Super Mom could order a stiff drink and enjoy herself despite the absence of her untrusty sidekick. We found ourselves seated in the near empty patio area of Robin's, in Cambria. Apparently, the secret to dining success is being an early bird. Two other families arrived shortly after, each with one entertaining toddler, and were seated well within the scope of visual distraction. PERFECT.
I ordered the Lamb Shank for me and a Cosmo, the girls split the Kid's Chicken with vegetables. There was a smattering of "Pleases" and "Thank Yous", frequent use of napkins AND forks. There was even a fairly pleasant bathroom experience which involved one toddler on the toilet while the other sat quietly alone at the table and Super Mom hovered in the 6 foot distance between the two.
How could this be? How could I have pulled this off? Something has to go wrong. And so, we raised our cups and proposed a toast to Daddy's generosity, "Thanks for dinner, Daddy" we said. And the sound of kid cups clinked against my martini glass.
As we made our exit, I'm certain my platforms never touched the ground, as I led my perfect angels out of the restaurant.
Lady Luck continued on our ride to the coffee shop where I promised giant cookies -even Super Mom stoops to bribery. The half dazed high school student greeted us at the door with, "I hope you only want drip coffee." I could see why this place was empty.
"Well, okay," Super Mom replied, "Do you have any giant cookies for my accompanying angels? And yes, I will have a cup of coffee, DECAFFEINATED, please." It was 7 and this Super Mom needed her rest tonight.
The pierced and disinterested barista turned a lazy circle and reappeared with a Styrofoam cup of joe and two giant chocolate cookies.
I raised the cup to my lips and was met with an icy cold liquid. "Um, this is the coldest cup of coffee I have ever had," said Super Mom.
He vaguely hid his annoyance while snatching the cup out of my hand (I could crush you with one squeeze of my Super Grip, kid). And with his back turned, he said, "Oh, that's right, you wanted decaf, right? I happen to have some freshly brewed right here."
Somewhere off in the distance an evil cackle filled the air and I swear I caught a glimpse of horns protruding from his greasy head of hair as he handed me the steaming cup of coffee. Super mom grabbed her angels and made for the door.
Lady Luck was by our side as we found our seats at the Follies, and the girls stood riveted by every act, even the bad ones. They laughed and sang along, they even pleaded to return after the intermission, even though Super Mom encouraged an early end to our perfect evening. At 9:30 we arrived home safely, both angels sound asleep in their seats. What have I done to deserve this?!
John pulled into the driveway in time to help deliver our perfect, sleeping children to their beds. And before long, our little house was dark and quiet. It's really quiet in here. I changed positions in bed to stare at the ceiling. I tried my usual calming methods from yoga but my Super Brain would not turn off. I calculated house payments, college tuition, ages of family members in 7 years. I made grocery lists. I got up to scribble some ideas on the chalkboard. I returned to my uninviting bed. I tossed some more. I contemplated getting up to do a few loads of laundry, or maybe even reorganize that junk drawer in the kitchen. What the hell is wring with me? The clock read 11:57.
And suddenly, Super Mom made her most brilliant discovery. I sat bolt upright in bed, my heart racing, my finger pointed towards the sky, "THAT LITTLE F*$!ER SOLD ME CUP OF CAFFEINATED COFFEE!!!!!! AAAUUUUUGGHHHHHH!!!""
Rats, foiled again.


The Opposite of OCD

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder is characterized by recurrent and persistent thoughts and feelings and repetitive, ritualized behaviors.
I have the opposite of OCD, I have SRS. Shiny Rock Syndrome. I can't stay focused on anything. Sufferers of SRS feel the need to start and stop multiple activities at once, never completing a task before being distracted by a new one.
While making a pot of coffee this morning I lifted the lid, dumped yesterday's grounds and then suddenly had an urge to empty the dishwasher. I hadn't even finished putting away the silverware when the half inflated pool caught my eye as it lay limply across my lawn. I abandoned my post at the dishwasher and fled into the backyard to deflate the pool. My day continued on like this until I hosted a neighbor and her daughter for a play date. For the first half hour, my SRS kept me from relaxing in the yard and holding a conversation. I was completely preoccupied by the all important distribution of playdough, then plugging in the playhouse lights, pouring a cup of coffee-wait, I never finished making the coffee....
Do all mothers suffer from SRS? Maybe it's just me...


The Many Hats a Mother Wears

I've made a habit of naming and renaming myself depending on the task at hand. I'm sure every schizophrenic does the same. Right now, I'm Mother Cleaver (as in June, for you youngins), and I've tidied up the living room, folded a freshly dried batch of laundry and pulled some warm chocolate chip cookies out of the oven. Did I mention dinner's already finished? Upon sniffing a particularly rank diaper, I don my "Exterminator Cap". If it's misbehaving, on goes the presidential tie as I fold my hands in my "Executive Disciplinarian" role. I've even taken to naming my husband. And it's "I wish the damned plumber would hurry up and fix this" if it's a leaky faucet. Or, if he's mowing the lawn my favorite past time is gawking at the "Hot Gardener" in my yard.
Yesterday, after whipping up a batch of frozen waffles, packing lunches and kissing my kindergartner goodbye, I traded in my tiara and my apron for a feather duster and a head wrap...The House Cleaner had arrived.
This afternoon, my two year old, better known as Teeny Houdini, climbed into her crib (yeah, you heard me, keep reading) and practiced her death defying jump-leaps across the span of a 42 inch mattress.
"Hey, Ana," I mused,"try not to knock all your teeth out."
Obviously, I was not wearing my "Doting Mother" headdress.
And then, the Teeny Houdini (who recently began speaking in complete sentences) paused, turned to meet my indifferent gaze and declared, "I know."
And, which hat do I wear now?????


The Organized Mother

Well, that's definitely not my title. This drummer beats to a more scattered rhythm whose music seems to attract tornadoes in my living room and baskets of explosive Legos. But since my daughter has begun her formal public education, I am trying my best to channel June Cleaver (minus the tacky apron, of course).
I'm getting up before my kids wake me up in the morning, allowing me the chance to shower or work out before I'm on "mommy duty". I'm packing lunches (all of ours) the night before to ease the morning rush.
We're on Day #3 and I'm curious to see how long I can keep this up. Even my house is tidy. Unbelievable.


Kinder Jitters

It was last December when I met with Shelby's preschool teacher to discuss her kindergartren readiness.

"She's so young, I protested. John and I are undecided about sending her off to Kindergarten this fall before she turns 5. In your opinion, is she prepared?" I asked her wide-eyed teacher.
This conversation was a poignant one in my mind because, aside from the details, the result was this: preschool, or at least the preschool Shelby was attending, is for social development first, and academic development second. And thus, if John and I were confident in her social progress and concerned about her academics, then we should send her to kindergarten, becasue she wasn't going to get the academics in rpeschool.

And so, last December, we dove off the fence and into the kindergarten yard, and never looked back. Until today, the day we arrived for Kindergarten round-up. Until this day, I had fended off everyone, including my own mother about our decision, arguing that "she'll be fine. She's tall, she's bright, she knows almost all her letters and sounds, and yes, she's a little young but she's a diligent student, and she'll be just fine."

On kindergarten round-up day, I made a point to arrive early (a BIG stretch for me), and John even left work so he could attend this 2 hour ordeal of familiarizing ourselves with Shelby's soon-to-be new classroom, other students and their parents, and her soon-to-be daily routine.

Giddy and excited, we met her teacher, donned name tags, and wandered the classroom checking off our "homework tasks" for the afternoon. It was like being in munchkin land with a swarm of bees, you couldn't hear yourself think nor could you find a chair that fit both butt cheeks. I became nervous about how much time her teacher spent with her during their introduction, in comparison to some of the other new students. Would she remember Shelby? Did she recognize that my child was extra special? Would this be a precursor to the slip beneath the cracks of her future? Twenty one students, would Shelby be as important as the next one?

When we stepped outside to explore the "Kinder-Yard" I ran into an acquaintance, another mom who's son shares the same birthday as Shelby. The look on her face gave her away, "I'm not so sure about all this" it grimaced as she approached.

"So, how's it going?" I beamed, as John followed Shelby to the play structure.

"Ohh, I don't know," she sighed from between clenched teeth, "he seems okay right now....we met with the principal last week and agreed that this year would just be a "trial start" in case things don't go well for Justin here."

A 'trial start'? A complete non-commitment to the start of her son's education? How could she instill confidence in him if she was already wavering?

And before I could open my mouth and insert my opinionated foot, John walked over to say hi, leaving Shelby on the structure.

"Well," he said, "I think it'll definitely be a challenge for her."

"Really?" I asked, as though 'a challenge' wasn't allowed at her age, she's too young for that.

"She's definitely not as capable as some of those other kids on the play structure. That's for sure. Those monkey bars are going to be a big hurdle for her."

Shelby has always been a cautious child. Never one to throw herself into the face of danger, leap from tall buildings, hang from a bar intended for a monkey. She's not a super hero after all, she's FOUR! And besides, she was raised to be civilized, right? I mean, well, she'll be okay with all these kids, won't she?
And just like that, my rock of confidence splintered. She can't do everything the rest of the five year olds can. And then, that look on my friend's face, that "not so sure about all this" expression, became my own. Maybe I'm "not so sure about all this" either. After all, I've never been one for commitment. And while I turned over the words, "trial start" in my mind, Shelby dragged us back into the classroom to do more exploring.

A giant blond adolescent looking child approached, her name tag read, "Anna". She sidled up beside my little daughter, who turned to stare blankly at the girl's chest. This Anna was a giant in munchkin land.

"What would happen if this guinea pig got really big? So big it was the size of this room? And then we started poking it with sticks?" Anna laughed.
Not only was this kid big, she was aggressive. And then, as I watched this giant stare down my little Shelby, I felt the onset of a small avalanche, my rock began to crumble.
Later, I heard myself reminding her teacher that Shelby won't turn 5 until September, "She's a little young," I said. I could feel the words "trial start" crawling up the back of my throat but I slammed my mouth shut.
When all the children had left, and John was staring at his watch, I found my feet had suddenly grown roots. I didn't want to leave this classroom. This was the last moment of kindergarten round-up with my little girl. I blinked and it was over. And in that brief two hour period, not only had I grown roots, but that rock of confidence I rode in on was now a scattered mass of sand at my truncated feet. Am I....I mean, is she really ready for this?


A Big Jump

Tomorrow marks the beginning of my little girl's public education, and the loosening of my grasp on her little life. Tomorrow, she will be a public school student, a malleable product of a professional teacher, an impressionable playground attendee. Tomorrow, she will be immersed in the culture of America. Tomorrow, she will become number 20 on her class list, another Shelby on the red rug, a B. on her name tag in case there are duplicates. She will learn to hang up her backpack, turn in her homework and flip her attendance card, in case her teacher's too busy to notice her.
Tomorrow, my daughter's presence in her kindergarten classroom will be a testament to what we have painstakingly taught her in these short almost five years at home. She will offer her manners, her understanding of friendship, her happiness, her frustration, her willingness to try new things, her laughter, and her heart to a community of her peers. She will stand out. She will be great.
She will be younger. She may struggle. She might cry. But she will succeed.
Tomorrow marks yet another "first" in our world. The first day I will kiss my daughter goodbye on the playground-not the preschool playroom, and trust she will line up at the right door. And much like that first day of preschool, tomorrow I will return home to wonder what she's doing every second of the day. If she's met a new friend, if she's feeling sad, if she had someone to sit with at snack time. I will miss her. I will miss her.


Kindergarten Countdown

I'm counting down the last two days before I walk my little four year old down the halls of a public school and launch her into the next 14 years of conforming American education.
Mixed emotions on this one-lots of 'em.
The last week has been a whirlwind of busy-ness, drinking down the last rays of summer vacation, entertaining more house guests, collecting and organizing wardrobe and school supplies, and of course, my favorite practice, "Kinder-Cramming".
I'm sure every parent does this(right?!). It's the last week before she starts school and I'm testing her on her letters and sounds, practicing writing her last name, singing and repeating my cel phone number, our address, her hometown, counting backwards. It's like I have a burning desire to impart every bit of Kinder knowledge on her before she gets there. Or maybe it's just the fact that I know what will be expected of her.
As we drove to Target for her backpack I injected her with tidbits of information, "Shelby, you're going to kindergarten to listen and learn lots of important things. You won't know everything, and you will get frustrated, but all the kids in your class will feel the same way." Minutes would pass as she silently chewed on my mommy advice. And then, "Oh, we'll have to pack your lunch every night before we go to school!" Or, "You're going to meet so many new friends! And you'll know Abbi, she'll be there in the classroom next door, and you'll see her on the playground!"
This afternoon we passed the hours away clearing her closet of stained and worn out clothing to make room for the "Fall Collection" I had packed away for this very purpose. The New School Wardrobe-shoes, coats, underwear, socks. I began collecting kid clothes for this purpose in early May. So we pulled it all out to hang on hangers and fold in her drawers, and apparently, if you hide clothes in a dark space, they multiply. In fact, it seems we have eliminated all but three old items in her closet. Yeah, we can say OVERKILL.
I'm even more embarrassed to admit that the little fashionista has a birthday coming up which just screams "Closet Remodel".
"Hey Daddy, can I have a 'walk-in' for my 5th birthday, please?"
Oh yeah,


Lifestyles of the Indebted & Fabulous

In light of my recent discovery- a newly admired fashion sense- I thought it only fair to impart some of this valuable knowledge on you, dear reader.
After the birth of my first child, I reevaluated my colorful collection of post-college hoodies, comfy "finals study sweats" in an assortment of plaids, and all other male-inspired articles of clothing designed to hide every curve and swerve on my feminine body. I resolved to discard every hooded sweatshirt, sweatpant that failed to hug my curvy backside, all things plaid, and even tossed every marathon T-shirt I'd acquired during my long stint as a running road warrior. Then I began visiting a formally trained hair dresser. After that, I increased the ante by vowing to wear mascara and earrings every day. No matter how shabby you may feel, a little accessorizing never hurt anyone.
As for my daily hygiene, which was null up to this point, I have also made significant improvements. I don't know if my mother-in-law was hinting at something, or merely sharing her expensive facial habits, but every year since I turned 30, she has given me some form of anti-wrinkle, eye lift, make you look younger than you really are cream and gift certificates for facials. Yeah, okay, I finally got the message. Through her gifting, I found DeVita, who sell an all natural (don't quote me) ADH citric acid wrinkle erase miracle potion. I've used the sample size with incredible success this past year (that's how long a tiny bit will last). Want to erase your eye wrinkles overnight? Call DeVita, it's for real! (This endorsement paid for by the makers of DeVita)
More daily hygiene includes a formidable amount of exfoliating. Like sand paper for the skin! I prefer the Aveeda Daily Face Scrubs, which I can get at the local Rite Aide for about $10. I've also used Target's Black Head Remover, which is really just a more abrasive daily exfoliant. Scrubbing the bejeesus out of my face almost every day has made my skin look and feel brighter, less dry, and allows it to actually absorb the (now) expensive face cream I apply after the fact. I love Elizabth Arden's Visibly Different Face Cream, which you can now get at Costco, $30 for TWO!!
Between an exfoliation treatment and the face cream slathering, I also like a spritz of toner (I LOVE Caudelie's Elixir which smells lovely, but since I ran out, now use DeVita's Rose Toner, which serves the same purpose).
One added tip, for crusty dry lips, you can exfoliate those too! Just use your toothbrush and scrub away the dead skin cells for healthy, full, and tingly lips.
Back to the wardrobe. If you want to kick it up a notch in the wow department, DO NOT WEAR flip-flops. They, much like those damned Crocs, are the anti-christ of fashion. Something about that simple t-strap, comfy sole and easy to slip on appeal just screams, "I don't care about my appearance". So, I, for one, have opted out of flops on many occasions. If you have to wear flops, Havaianas are the way to go-so comfy they're like walking on cheese. I chose a bright yellow for my casual beach wear, but friends have sported the metallics and they are far more fabulous than any flop I've seen before.
Other miracles in my closet include a flat-iron (where were these when I was in high school???), dark denim-any high end kind, cashmere (expensive but SSOOOOoooo worth it), a good pair of black or brown leather boots (still searching for the black), a good babysitter and an understanding hubby with a willing pocketbook, a collection of all grades of scarves, one good bra (for those of us "chestly challenged" I highly recommend something from The Little Bra Company, it works wonders!!!), a few belts of interest, and the obligatory fab handbag.
Never forget that motherhood doesn't mean you're invisible. We can all still see you, sags, bags and all. May the Fashion Debt be with you.


Kindergarten Training Camp

I stepped out of my usual motherly role this morning (where I allow my children to sleep in as long as possible which in turn allows me time to consume an additional pot of coffee and savor the last moments of silence left in my day) and traded my coffee mug for a bullhorn and a whistle in preparation for the inevitable arrival of "Operation Kindergarten: Public School".
6:54 a.m. SOLDIER!!!! RISE AND SHINE!!!! Get dressed, put on your shoes and head 'em up for outdoor activity! I don't care if it's dark outside, GO GO GO GOOOOoooooo!!!!!!
Yep, we have one week before school starts to shape this preschool girl into a well prepared kindergartner, and it all begins with a wake up call.


The Almost Compliment

My neighbor is more like me than I realized. Having only met her once on the beach, clad in full wetsuits a few months before, I hadn't the chance to recognize myself in her until the conversation we shared today.
We happily greeted each other as she waved from her front yard. I guided my stroller over towards her picket fence and cooed over her newest baby boy (her third child-the woman dispenses infants like a candy machine).
"I think we saw you at the park the other day," she offered.
I now recall recognizing her daughters, who have hair like bohemian mermaids, butt-length and curled in loose tendrils down their backs. I eyed their golden locks and thought to myself if Shelby had the ability to grow long hair, which, unfortunately, is not in her DNA, that her hair would look a lot like these girls.
"Oh, your girls have the long curled hair!"
"Yeah," she answered.
"Were you with a big group of women and kids of all ages?" I asked....with the big circus tent and the elephant giving rides-there was so much action over there the table resembled a 3 ring circus act.
"Oh yes, that's us. My girlfriends and I have been getting together for ten years now."
So that's what my friends and I look like when we get together, a furious cloud of activity, like a swarm of bees you don't dare get close to.
And then she added, "You were wearing a RVCA shirt I have... I mean, I have the same shirt, and I've never known how to wear it until I saw you in it the other day. I've just always worn it as a swimsuit cover. I pointed you out to my friends without recognizing you!"
I raised my eyebrows as I attempted to recall exactly which shirt she was referring to and what my state of insanity was the day an entire group of women were observing my style of dress. Oh God, I thought, at what level was my insanity, was that the day Ana got stung by the bee and then pooped out her diaper?!?!
I was lost in my own thoughts when she delivered a line I was sure could only be uttered by me, myself and my schizophrenic I.
"I didn't realize you were such a cute dresser." And she gave a slight nod to my Monday tunic and skinny jeans.
Okay, although intended to be a compliment, her double entendre suggested that my first impression months before on the beach-albeit in a rubber wetsuit, matted with sand and topped by a coif full o' seaweed-did not parlay my zest for fashion. Where did I go wrong?
After thanking her (I think), we offered our neighborly goodbyes and headed out. And the rest of my walk I pondered ways in which to improve my wetsuit appeal. Earrings? Waterproof mascara? Maybe a trendy patch sewn onto some portion of my rubber suit. If only I had gone through with that foot tattoo when I was in Tahiti I might have come off as a lifetime fashionista. Now, I must settle for the title bestowed, a newly discovered fashion plate, the girl who came outta nowhere.
And then I smiled even wider because I appreciated her blundering gesture, the "foot in mouth, I-meant-it-in-a-good-way-even-though-it-came-out-all-wrong compliment". I think I'm going to like getting to know this neighbor better. We certainly have a lot in common...


Happy 2 Years!

You came into this world just two years ago today, and I can't seem to recount my life without you. You arrived like you had been here all along. Your big sister cried for you to "hurry up!" when you refused to make your grand entrance on time.
August 13th, 2007 seemed as though it lasted forever, the day you were born. Your dad and I met at the hospital (after lunch of course) for the induction. Nurses and doctors were in awe of my fruitless labor, already dilated 4 cm before setting foot in the delivery room. But you waited, a hint at your comedic timing, until every grandma, aunt and uncle teetered at my feet for a glimpse at your tiny face. You've always been a party animal and midnight seemed to be your lucky hour. Your sister never left your side the first time she saw you. Shelby spent 8 hours at the hospital that day and begged to stay the night with "baby sister".
You have delighted us all with your contagious smile, your sense of humor, your happy little person. You are a gift of spirit and sweetness. You host a shock of white hair upon your head, and rosy cheeks beneath the blue eyes your father gave you. You adore your sister just as much as she does you, you are adventurous and thoughtful. A singer, a dancer, a monkey, at times. You somersaulted into my heart from the moment I saw you. Happy Birthday, my baby girl. I am so delighted to be on this journey of life with your hand in mine.


Dear Mom,

Happy Birthday Mom! I love you. I have so much to thank you for: for providing me with a wonderful childhood, for showing me your zest for adventure, for being an incredible role model, a loving mother, my best friend. Thank you for sharing the same cel phone service so I can call you several times a day just to hear your voice, thanks for sharing your love for dark chocolate, literature, nature, all bodies of water, fresh air, music, happiness, and yes, even the habit of conversing with myself. Thanks and happy birthday!


The Morning Fur

It was 7:30 in the morning and the mommy alarm had gone off in the girls' room again, sounding like this, "Mommmyyy! Mommmmyyyyyy! Mommmyyy! I swear, I can't seem to find the snooze button on those two things.
Ana wasn't totally upright in her crib, so I made my way over to Shelby who was sitting up at the end of her bed (this is her migratory landing spot each morning after having traversed the entirety of her mattress throughout the night).
And then she professed a description to make any mother proud:
"Mommy," she grumbled, "my tongue is hairy."


Conversations With Myself

It was girls night out in my little beach town and I mounted my beach cruiser with a goofy grin on my face as I rolled down my driveway to meet other kid-less mothers.
"So this is what it feels like to be alone."
And then I giggled. The ocean air in my face, a sunset on the horizon and an empty baby seat wiggling away behind me.
"Wow, I can't believe I'm riding away from my house tonight without the kids."
"And I'm all alone!"
And then, after four blocks of this chattering away I suddenly clapped my hand over my mouth, and loudly whispered, "Shit! I've been talking to myself! Out loud! In public!"
It has taken me 32 years to understand my mother, I still don't fully get what makes her tick. But I will say that motherhood has opened a few doors of insight into her soul. And right then, just four blocks from my house, riding along on my beach cruiser, I finally understood why she talks to herself.
As moms, our primary concern is the education of our babies. And so we offer ourselves, our love, our concern, our knowledge, and inevitably, our gift of gab. We talk to the infant in the stroller, we chit chat away about the color of the apples in the produce section, we point out the circles on the fire truck as it rolls by. We talk, incessantly to our kids in hopes of boosting their worldly knowledge, imparting our intellect, sharing the world with them through verbal communication.
My mom raised three children who were all born four years apart. Think about that, she began this habit of diarrhea of the mouth in 1976!!! And then, she just kept up the habit over a period of 26 years until her last child turned 18. She's one of the world's most practiced verbal bulimics! I can recall returning home for a weekend just last month and as I sat coloring with my girls in the playroom, I could hear her yakking away about the roast and the potatoes, the silverware and whatever else crossed her mind and then shot out of her mouth. It was a common occurrence to find my mother alone in a room with one hand on her hip and the other hand on her head like she and herself had been in the middle of an argument. Obviously the left side of her was being stubborn (the hip hand) and the right side was thoroughly annoyed (the head hand), and the silence upon your interrupting her meant that she had just come to a standstill with herself on the topic.
"Mom!" I hollered, "Are you talking to yourself?"
And after just 5 years of parenting, I've finally cracked. I'm following in my mother's crazy habits, talking away to myself while I pedal through my neighborhood. That's me, the schizophrenic mother conversing with herself about the new landscaping in The Butler's yard, and then chastising herself for saying it out loud...out loud.


The Teeny Houdini

Yep, my second daughter's stubborn streak is going to earn me a visit from Child Protective Services.
Case in point, after a late arrival to swim lessons, followed by a lightning path to farmer's market for much needed vegetables (performed at mock speed), and then the added trip to the paint store for samples, it's no surprise this mommy was a frantic mess in need of a cocktail and a foot massage by the time we got home.
After surviving a torturous 49 minutes in the paint store, complete with one death defying escape into the parking lot while I wasn't looking (WHAT?!?!), we exited with $60 worth of samples and two punctured latex gloves (don't ask). The clerk was happy to see us go and I could only apologize for the millionth time regarding the puddled water all over the floor. Who puts a water dispenser in the middle of their store for every child to self serve at their will?
Needless to say, when we screeched into the driveway at 5:28, I gathered the groceries and made my move to whip up something for dinner before things really got ugly.
"NOOOOO!!!!!!!!" screamed Ana, with every ounce of her almost two year old being. WHo knerw the kid could spend three hours in the car and given the chance, opted for MORE!? So I did what every frazzled, spent, impatient mother does at this point-I shrugged my shoulders, readjusted my grocery bags and left.
Shelby and I made our way into the house, started dinner and left Ana to her own vices in my car. I could have cared less where she painted the mascara from my emergency makeup bag. The car doors were closed, I had a view of the vehicle from my post in the kitchen, and I was busying myself with steamed broccoli and chicken, and the most fabulous high calorie invention Trader Joe's has ever offered, Trader Giotta's Frozen Fettucini (don't just buy one!).
Just about the time I was making my way to the front door to check on my little stubborn second, she was making her way in...huh?!
I spotted the tear stained cheeks before she made it into the living room. I picked her up and held her tight to my chest, feeling her tiny heartbeat like a drum as I stared outside at the car-which had every door closed. HUH?! How the...what the...where did she...?????!!???
So Shelby, Ana (who was now permanently suctioned to my hip) and I, headed outside to inspect the evidence of our Teeny Houdini Escape.
Sure enough, every door was closed except for the passenger door, which was the slightest bit cracked.
"Did you open that door yourself and climb out, Ana?" I pondered.
And then her lip quivered and she muttered, "Yeah, that door."
I am so fired.