Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Gimme a Break!


I'm about to go off here. Be warned.

Seems some folks are getting all twisted into knots about the latest Disney animated feature film, The Princess and the Frog. Apparently, there's some real concern about the movie's inclusion of elements of New Orleans voodoo in the plot. Twitter tweets and blog posts by worried parents are burning up the web because people are scared that Disney may expose their babies to satanic influences with this film.

Oh brother!

Okay, I'm going to step back for a moment and say this: If you, as a parent, are truly concerned about the messages to which your children are exposed, kudos to you for being vigilant. I commend your efforts to filter the experiences of childhood in an informed and responsible way. More parents need to be on the ball about this stuff, as far as I'm concerned. I'd love to see more parents paying attention to what their kids read, watch, listen to, and put in their mouths.

But hear me out...

Do not tell me there is no racism involved when parents decide *this* is the movie they need to watch out for. I'm talking about parents who have more or less accepted Disney films as wholesome fodder for their precious young'uns until now.

A little history for your consideration:

  • Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs - White witch queen banishes, then later casts spell on beautiful stepdaughter out of jealousy. Step daughter goes and lives with seven dudes in a remote locale. Mighty shady. And wouldn't the plural of dwarf be dwarves?
  • Pinocchio - Italian wooden puppet boy comes to life via magic. Hmmm...methinks a little Stregheria might be involved here. Just sayin'.
  • Fantasia - All kinds of wizardry and witchcraft going on in this flick. I won't comment on the obvious consumption of mass quantities of hallucinogenics that took place at the animation studios.
  • Sleeping Beauty - More jealous white witch action.
  • Bedknobs and Broomsticks - Not a DIY home show.
  • Mary Poppins - Now tell me she's not a witch. Homegirl can fly fergoshsakes!
  • The Sword in the Stone - Anglo-Saxon witchcraft at its finest. Merlin is the man!
  • The Black Cauldron - Ummm...yeah. No comment necessary. More white people dabbling in magical stuff.
  • The Little Mermaid - Underwater white (okay, GREY) witch this time. Added bonus of a scantily clad female protagonist.
  • Beauty and the Beast - More European magic/enchantment/witchcraft. Yawn.....
  • Aladdin - Ahh, finally, some multicultural magic goin' on. Evil Middle Eastern dabblers in devilry. Come on folks, Robin Williams as a djinn! Oh, and another scantily clad leading babe.
  • The Lion King - Guess it's okay if it's animals screwing around with soothsaying, conjuring, etc.
  • Pocahontas - Here come the pagan native North Americans. Okay, no medicine men in this one, but there is a benevolent talking tree spirit... Main girl also uses the same fashion tape to keep from busting out of her duds as her buddies Ariel and Jasmine above.
  • The Hunchback of Notre Dame - Uh oh. Catholicism and magic. Look out!
  • Hercules - Polytheism, all wrapped up in a warm, fuzzy Disney flick!
  • Mulan - Politically correct Asian ancestor reverence and talking, singing/dancing dead folks. And cross-dressing too!
  • The Emperor's New Groove - Indigenous South American mojo. Oye!
I think by now you see what I'm getting at. Disney has a long history of incorporating a little magic into their "magic". So back to my original point. If it's not racism, why then are people whose home DVD collections include a number of the above titles getting their knickers in a bunch about The Princess and the Frog?

Just wondering...

***And in case you couldn't figure it out already, I have shared all the above films with my daughters. And yes, there has occasionally been some discussion of the more occult elements involved. That's my job as a parent, right? Or should I just be plopping them in front of the DVD player and assuming it's the film studios' responsibility to make my parenting choices for me?

Friday, December 11, 2009

Totally Unstickified!

I am the worst blogger in the world, apparently. I have neglected my blog for the past few months because (gasp!) real life has required some serious attention. I won't feel guilty. I won't!

I have been devoting a lot of time and energy to my job, and a lot of thought and prayer to a big decision regarding my job.

In the midst of a major recession, when so many are worrying about the security of their jobs, where companies are downsizing and cutting hours, when even that "perceived-to-be-most-secure-of-professions" (teaching - my career for most of the last 12 years) is no longer safe from the axe, my employer is growing.

(Wow, was that a long sentence, or what?!?!)

I digress...

In a nutshell, my company is growing by leaps and bounds. Our territory has more than doubled since I came on board in July, 2008. It's exciting to be part of a team that is doing well in otherwise uncertain times. This growth has created new jobs, and I was presented with an opportunity to make a leap of faith.

As of January 1st, I will be transitioning from the training end of my company (with its modest, albeit guaranteed salary) to a sales position that is quite geographically desirable relative to where I live. The earning potential is unlimited. None of the sales team in my company - even those who had a "bad" year - made less than double what I currently make.

I am thrilled, terrified, and optimistic.

What I struggle with most is giving myself permission to take a calculated risk. For the vast majority of my time as a wife and mother, I have been the primary breadwinner in our family. For a long time, I have been the one who had to make sure things were taken care of. I was the one who could never take a chance, because - at the end of the day - it was all on me.

My husband is out of school and in a career he loves. He gets up every day and goes to work at a job that gives him a deep sense of accomplishment and pride. The fact of the matter though is this: He's in social work. He will never make a ton of money.

We're not greedy people. We don't need a mansion or a fleet of luxury vehicles. We don't even expect to take regular vacations or be able to shop in the high-end department stores. I am all about being frugal and watching our pennies, and nothing's going to change that. But we have three children. We have three college educations to finance, three weddings to help cover, three sets of braces, three of everything.

I know how rare it is for someone to find a job they truly love. My husband has found that. I can't ask him to turn his back on a job that makes him so happy just to pursue bigger bucks. So, I guess it's on all on me.

And I'm okay with that!

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Super Snapshot Saturday #1

Life has been in the way lately, and frankly my blog has had to take a back seat. I find myself incredibly overwhelmed by inertia...once I lose momentum it's very difficult for me to get moving again. So it goes with my blog. I'm still sitting on a half-finished post about my son's birth. It'll get done - someday.

In the mean time, Angel over at Emily Makes Three came up with a fun idea, and one that's perfect for helping me find my momentum again when it comes to blogging. The idea?

Super Snapshot Saturdays!


This week's theme - Black and White

So, after much deliberation, I submit some of my current favorite B&W shots.


I love this shot of my husband and my eldest child. This photo is four or five years old, but my husband still demonstrates the same attentiveness and love for our children that he does in this shot.


Along the river in Chilliwack, BC - July 2005
My middle child, finding pretty rocks. We spent 3 beautiful weeks on the road, driving from Southern California, through Oregon and Washington, into British Columbia and the Canadian Rockies, and finally into Alberta before turning around and heading home down the Pacific coast. We need another vacation like this!


My son, one of the most cheerful babies I know. He's two now, but this side of his personality is still very much intact. There are days (like today) where the stress of having a toddler at 40 weighs heavily on me and I wonder what the heck I'm doing, but his joy and energy are a welcome addition to our home. I love this kid!

Friday, September 25, 2009

Please Excuse the Interruption

Work and life in general have been busy, and I have not been tending to this blog as I should. I will return to regularly scheduled programming as soon as possible, but in the mean time, for those of you with young children, this is important information.

If you use this product:



...please visit this website for IMPORTANT RECALL INFORMATION

Saturday, September 5, 2009

My Miracle Man - Part Two

***WARNING - This post includes frank and graphic descriptions of a medically challenging pregnancy and delivery. I'm talking blood, swear words, and (gasp) moments of doubt about my heart, my faith, and my desire to go through the whole ordeal. If you're going to be offended by any of these things, don't bother reading any further. Don't say I didn't warn you...***



I still get goosebumps sometimes when I look at my son and think about all we went through to have him here today. The fact that he is cute as hell doesn't hurt, of course, but that's just my
opinion.

Following two instances at 6 and 12 weeks pregnant where health care professionals assumed I was in the process or on the verge of miscarrying, I wasn't taking anything for granted. The ER doctor who treated me at 12 weeks sent me home with instructions addressing my anemia (from massive blood loss) and orders to follow up later that morning with my own OB/GYN. He was not especially optimistic, quoting statistics that brought into focus the distinct possibility (or rather, probability) that this pregnancy was on its way out.

My husband and I returned home to our still-sleeping daughters (who were in the care of my brother-in-law and his wife, and I headed straight to bed. Every trip to the bathroom was a nerve-wracking experience as I feared what I'd see left behind. Fortunately, our mattress pad - and my husband's quick action - had done a good job of saving our mattress from what might otherwise ended up looking like the scene of an axe murder. Our sheets were a total loss though.
I called my physician as soon as her office opened and made an appointment to see her later that day.

Dr. M was supportive but cautious during our office visit. She did another ultrasound and was pleased with what she saw as far as the baby's position and that of the placenta. She could not ascertain the exact cause of my heavy bleeding, but suspected a subchorionic hemorrhage. I was told to take it easy for a week or so, and return to her office for weekly ultrasounds to check the baby's growth and the health of the placenta.

Now, with my first two pregnancies ultrasounds were major events, scheduled in advance. They were precious opportunities to nab a couple snapshots of the little one inside me, as well as a few moments of video footage. Truly valuable stuff. With Connor, I was to end up having so many ultrasounds I would eventually lose count. The staff at my doctor's office generously printed out sweet pictures of my little guy each time, and it honestly got to the point where (I can't believe I'm admitting this) I'd say a half-hearted "Thanks," and shove them in my purse. Seriously, I was getting tired of all the photos. I have an entire manila envelope filled with pictures of my gestating son, starting at 6 weeks, then 12 weeks, then every stinking week after that until 32 weeks...plus a couple more bonus shots between 32 and 37 weeks.

I had a grand total of 36 prenatal office visits just with my OB/GYN. This does not include the visits with the perinatologist who consulted on my case, nor the "routine" ultrasounds at the imaging center at specific stages of pregnancy (you know, where they measure all the important stuff and looks for indications of certain conditions or risk factors). Thank God for my husband's platinum health insurance package!

Other than earning frequent flier miles at my doctor's office (yeah, I wish) and collecting a ridiculous number of ultrasound snapshots of my growing son, the rest of my pregnancy was relatively uneventful. I did suffer from the most insane case of pregnancy-induced insomnia on the planet, but as far as physical problems, the pregnancy was pretty mellow from 12 weeks on. I was working full time as a 4th grade teacher, and I was 38 years old, but all things considered it went pretty well!

Here in Arizona, many schools take time off in early October as a "Fall Break". Considering that school starts here in early August, and that it's usually still in the high 90s come October, a week off is definitely in order. Well, my son's official due date was October 21, so I'd planned on working until Friday, October 5th. The following week was our Fall Break, so I figured I'd be able to wring an extra week of maternity leave out of the whole situation if I could just make it to the 5th. Connor had other plans...

I went for my weekly visit with Dr. M on Monday, October 1. She was a little concerned by the baby's heart rate, which was dipping somewhat, so she asked me to go to the hospital for a few hours of fetal monitoring. I followed orders and headed downtown for what was, quite possibly, the most boring two hours of my life. Since my husband was home with our daughters, I was alone in the hospital, tethered to the bed by those annoying fetal monitors. Fortunately, Connor's heart rate was in the acceptable range, so I was sent home and told to report back to the hospital in two days for another session. I did a little happy dance because there was a very boring-sounding mandatory meeting at work that Wednesday and I was thrilled to have an excuse to duck out. Come on, at the end of pregnancy, sitting in meetings just sucks!

I continued about my business, teaching and taking care of my family and trying to finish up all my lesson plans for the substitute teacher who would be taking over my class during my time off. On Wednesday morning, I walked my students to their music class and returned to my classroom. At one point it felt as though I had experienced a loss of bladder control, but I couldn't be sure. All you moms out there know what I mean. With my two previous children I never had a spontaneous rupture of my membranes. In both cases, the doctor had to break my water toward the end of labor. This time was different.

I had about twenty minutes before I needed to reclaim my students, so I informed the teacher across the hall that I thought something might be up. I let her know I was going to the ladies' room to check on things, and "If I'm not back in 15 minutes it means I'm giving birth in the staff restroom so could you please go get my students for me?" She laughed and told me not to worry about it.

Once in the ladies room it became obvious that something was up. I immediately informed my principal that I thought I was in labor (although I wasn't feeling any contractions) and would need to leave as soon as possible. Of course, I had all my lesson planning complete - copies made, resources gathered, books collected - for the weeks following Fall Break through late December (my anticipated maternity leave). I did not, however, have anything prepared for the two and a half days left in the week. I fully expected to make it until Friday, plus have a week or so off before the baby actually came, so this was not in my plans! Those of you who are teachers know that it's ten times the work to plan for a sub than to "do it yourself". Now I found myself running around (yes, with ruptured membranes) making copies and laying out materials for whoever was going to cover my class for the next few days.

The ladies in the office and copy room were yelling at me to JUST GO! I reminded them that my husband still needed to get back down this way from his work in Scottsdale (because I was not about to attempt to drive myself to downtown Phoenix while in labor), so I had a good thirty minutes or so before I had to go. They thought I was crazy. I later found out just how crazy I really was, and how very, very close I could have come to a very, very bad outcome.

More to come...





Friday, September 4, 2009

My Miracle Man - Part One

***WARNING - This post includes frank and graphic descriptions of a medically challenging pregnancy and delivery. I'm talking blood, swear words, and (gasp) moments of doubt about my heart, my faith, and my desire to go through the whole ordeal. If you're going to be offended by any of these things, don't bother reading any further. Don't say I didn't warn you...***

If there was ever a doubt in my mind as to whether miracles are possible, this little man erased them.


Connor was born in the fall of 2007, and everything about his birth - and the 37 weeks prior to it - was miraculous.

This was an unplanned, and unexpected pregnancy. Our daughters were approaching the end of elementary school and we assumed our family was complete. I was looking to make a career change, and adding a new baby to the mix was not part of the plan. I'd be lying if I didn't admit that, upon learning we were expecting #3, I was a little uncertain about my feelings.

At 6 weeks, I experienced cramping and bleeding that sent me rushing to my doctor's office. The nurse practitioner who examined me used terms like "what appears to be products of conception" while describing what she observed. In other words, it looked to her like I was having a miscarriage. I was frightened and a little disappointed, but I guess because I was still struggling to process the whole *holy crap, how are we ever going to afford another child and now I'm never going to be able to leave teaching and shit, we don't have family close by anymore and now we have to find daycare and jeez how expensive is that going to be and besides I'm too damn old to be having a baby and do we even want to be starting all over again with this baby stuff* thing, a teeny-tiny little part of me was thinking that God was letting us off the hook and not expecting us to take on more that we could handle.

Imagine the surprise and shock in the room when the NP brought out the ultrasound to verify her suspicions and instead found an itty-bitty, perfect little 6 week heartbeat. At that moment I started to cry, and I admitted to myself that I kinda-sorta did want this baby after all.

A month and a half later, the long Easter weekend was about to begin. I finished the work week on Thursday and was looking forward to having Good Friday off. I'd felt some little twinges at work on Thursday, but assumed it was that "round ligament" crap the doctors always talk about in pregnancy. We went to bed fairly early, and I didn't think anything unusual was up. At about 1 AM, something caused me to awaken.

I don't remember exactly what happened next, but I remember sitting up in bed and hearing my husband say, "Oh, Honey!" I jumped out of bed, from a pool of blood that extended from my mid-back to my knees. I was dizzy and my heart was racing as I grabbed the cordless phone and stumbled to the bathroom. I called my OB/GYN's office and stood on the cold tile by the toilet. As I spoke with the nurse on call, I told her I was afraid to sit on the toilet, even though I had the urge to use the restroom, because I was afraid everything was going to, er...come out. She calmly told me that if it was going to happen, there was nothing I could do about it. I needed to use the toilet, she said, to take the pressure off the uterus.

As I sat on the toilet, I could hear my husband stripping the blood-soaked sheets and mattress pad off our bed and filling the tub in order to try and salvage them with a cold water soak. He fumbled for his cell phone, calling his brother and sister-in-law to see if they could come to our house and stay with our sleeping 9 and 8 year old daughters. He knew a trip to the hospital was inevitable.

The on-call nurse advised my husband to call an ambulance, due to the volume of blood loss I was experiencing. During my first-ever ambulance ride, I remember thinking that I don't know how folks with gunshot wounds, broken bones, or large pieces of metal embedded in their bodies could tolerate the jostling and bouncing of the rig. Man, was it rough! I also recall hearing one of the paramedics. who was seated next to my hip, whisper, "Dude, she's losing a LOT of blood!" to his partner. Ummm...not reassuring.

I have never experienced such humiliation as when the nurse and assistant in the ER began cleaning me up prior to the doctor's exam. I realized in that moment how helpless and fragile the elderly must feel - those who are in nursing homes or even those being cared for by loved ones. To be totally dependent on others for things as personal as cleaning up your private messes, well, it's just hard. Really hard.

When the doctor entered the room and began examining me, I remember experiencing what felt like a huge gush. I recall hearing him catch his breath and say, "Um yes, there's a lot of blood and I'm seeing what appears to be products of conception". That damn term again. I guess it's supposed to sound kinder and gentler than "Okay lady, I think I see little parts and yeah, I'd say you lost the baby judging by all the carnage here..."

My husband started to cry and was saying something about us being able to try again soon. The doctor began what sounded like a textbook lecture on how nature recognizes when there's a problem and corrects mistakes when it's not meant to be. The fact that I was right around 12 weeks at this point indicated, in his opinion, that this was a case of perhaps a genetic anomaly or some other problem that would cause a baby to be unable to develop fully.

He ordered an ultrasound to check how complete the miscarriage was. As he prepared to leave the room and send in the orders for my scan, I asked him what they would do. He explained that I would - depending on the results of the ultrasound - be sent home to allow nature to take its course. I was petrified at the thought of being told to go home and lose whatever was left of my baby in the toilet. I was panicking at the realization that at this stage I might actually be able to recognize little body parts. I started to lose it. The doctor left and went to go call my OB/GYN and I was wheeled into ultrasound.

My husband was not allowed to join me in the ultrasound room. The tech who performed the scan told me I was not going to be able to see the monitor while he did his work. It was just policy. I figured it was done this way to keep hysterical moms from freaking out when they no longer saw a heartbeat on the screen. He had the sound turned off as well, so I was not able to listen for that little pock-pock-pock-pock you expect to hear.

After about five minutes of small talk and unreadable facial expressions, the ultrasound tech looked directly at me and said, "I'm not supposed to show you anything, but I think you'll want to see this," then turned the monitor to face me. There on the screen was my baby, bouncing around at the end of his umbilical cord, apparently unfazed by whatever else was going on in my temperamental uterus. The tech told me he was seeing what appeared to be a perfectly normal 12-13 week fetus, with no signs of stress and good blood flow.

The ER doctor met me back in the exam room within minutes and was stunned. He was convinced I'd been having a miscarriage and could not explain what was going on. He told me that I might still be in the very beginning stages of a miscarriage, and the next few days would be telling. I was discharged (barefoot, as I'd been brought in by ambulance and my husband never thought to bring shoes for me) and ordered to call my own doctor as soon as her office opened in the morning.

TO BE CONTINUED...

Thursday, September 3, 2009

I'm Sorry, But...HUH?!?!

Just one more reason why I'm grateful to be out of the classroom and no longer teaching in a public school setting.

I have always felt that politics should be kept out of the classroom. Note, I believe all US school children should learn about the political process, but I think the personal politics of a teacher have no place in the classroom. I also expected my students and their parents to treat my classroom as a politically neutral territory. I apparently did a pretty good job at this, because even now a majority of my former students (and the parents of those students) tell me they still have no idea what my political affiliation is.

Next Tuesday the President is planning to give American students a little pep talk, and already some folks are getting all twisted up inside about what the real motives of this speech are.

According to the Tampa Tribune: Jim Greer, chairman of the Florida Republican Party, said the speech would use taxpayer dollars "to spread President Obama's socialist ideology."

But again, according to the Tribune: "The president will speak directly to students around the country about the value of education and the importance of staying in school as part of his effort to dramatically cut the dropout rate," said White House spokeswoman Gannet Tseggai. "This is not a policy speech."

So, working hard, staying in school, and graduating are now part of the socialist manifesto? I don't think this sounds terribly political at all. In fact, it seems - quite possibly - the least political subject a US President could broach with school children. I'm so confused!

I'll admit, I am 24 hours post-surgery and still have codeine in my system, so maybe I'm a little fuzzy on some things, but at least I'm not the only one wondering what's really got people's knickers in a wad. Jen over at Thoughts from a Liberal Mom mulled over this same puzzle, only she was much more articulate (and likely, much less medicated) than I. Thanks Jen!

Sunday, August 23, 2009

They're Growing Up Too Fast!

I hate the fact that I can now no longer identify the owners of girls' shoes in my house based on size.


...and yes, I have now officially had the experience of grabbing a pair of flip-flops, heading out the door, and realizing - whilst marching up the aisles of the supermarket - that I am wearing my daughter's shoes.

This is so wrong.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Update Time

A while back I posted the list below. I guess it's time for an update on my progress so far...

Below are 101 things I aim to check off my life's "to-do list" in the next 2.75 years.

May 26, 2009-February 21, 2012

Items that are italicized are in progress, bold are completed.

1. Purchase a home.
2. Go on a cruise with my husband and children.
3. Take a real vacation with just my husband.
4. Spend a "girls weekend" at a fancy resort with each of my daughters individually. (0/2)
5. Learn Haitian Kreyol well enough to hold a conversation with a native speaker.
6. Learn Hopi well enough to greet, thank, and complement my husband's grandma...without making her laugh (unless what I'm saying is supposed to, you know, actually be funny)!
7. Learn to knit.
8. Make a scrapbook for each of my daughters' elementary school years.
9. Go a whole month with no soda.
10. Take my mom to a day spa for "the works".
11. Learn to make pie crust from scratch.
12. Read "War and Peace".
13. Go back to Haiti.
14. Visit Hawaii.
15. Get back in an outrigger for regular workouts.
16. Make 3 new friends. (1/3)
17. Leave a really big tip for a harried server at a restaurant.
18. Write a letter to the corporate office of a business to compliment an employee.
19. Rent a condo somewhere fun and treat my brother's family to a weekend getaway.
20. Surprise my husband with a "kid-free" evening at home...just the two of us.
21. Take my children on road trips to three places of historical significance/noted natural beauty (i.e., Mt. Rushmore, Washington, D.C., Grand Canyon) (1/3)
22. Go back to New Orleans.
23. Pay for breakfast/coffee for the person behind me at a drive through five times. (0/5)
24. Submit a photo I've taken to National Geographic.
25. Hand over a proposal, outline, and three completed chapters of "my book" to my well-connected friend (she offered...).
26. Learn to dance.
27. Swim laps three times a week for an entire summer.
28. Get back down to my fighting weight.
29. Speak only kind words for a whole day.
30. Make beignets for breakfast.
31. Learn to say "thank you" in ten different languages I don't already know. (0/10)
32. Keep my car impeccably clean for a month.
33. Enter all my tasks and appointments into my calendar for a month.
34. Learn to sync my Blackberry with Outlook and my work calendar.
35. Purge my closet and get rid of everything I don't actually wear, seriously.
36. Give away/donate my "teacher stuff".
37. Take my kids on bike rides at least twice a week for a whole season (but this IS Phoenix, so it won't be summer).
38. Get my toenails painted blue with a pedicure.

39. Add $50 to my Kiva.org loan fund.
40. Learn how to create my own backgrounds, headers, and buttons for blogs.
41. Teach my daughters how to cook their favorite meals.
42. Make a one-of-a-kind piece of jewelry as a gift for someone.
43. Help my daughters assemble brown bag lunches for the homeless and go with them to distribute the bags.
44. Find a good translation of the Quran, read it, and decide for myself what Islam teaches.
45. Reread the Bible, novel-style, start to finish.
46. Hold a baby at a restaurant so that her mother can eat an entire meal at a relaxed pace, uninterrupted.
47. Save enough to pay cash for a minivan for my family.
48. Clear out my personal email inboxes.
49. Fly First Class.
50. Recycle something mundane by making it into something beautiful.
51. Fully fund our emergency savings.
52. Get back into a bikini (legitimately, not obliviously).
53. Take a girls' trip with an old friend.
54. Make a snap decision and be totally at peace with going on instinct, for once.
55. Learn to bake bread from scratch.
56. Acquire the tools do do home canning.
57. Find a system of managing my coupons that is organized and efficient.
58. Visit my uncle's family in Atlanta and meet all my cousins' children.
59. Visit my other uncle in Wyoming and treat his wife to something special (because Lord knows, she so deserves it).
60. Plan a weekend with my kids, my aunt-in-law (yes, I made that term up) and her son.
61. Make peace with my mother-in-law.
62. Renew my friendship with my ex-best friend in San Francisco.
63. Spend a long weekend with my godfather and get back in touch with my faith.
64. Take a capoiera class.
65. Buy a lottery ticket and give it to a stranger.
66. Go camping.
67. Dye my hair red again.
68. Decorate one room in my house in a Caribbean colonial style.
69. Completely make over one room in my house using only things we already own, that have been given to us, found, or acquired for free (Freecycle, etc.).
70. Make a summer dress for each of my daughters.
71. Arrive early for every work commitment for a month.
72. Attend a rally or fund raising event for a cause I support.
73. Write letters every month to the child we sponsor in Uganda.
74. Write a letter to one of my elected representatives.
75. Photograph my children weekly for a year (0/52)
76. Order ten things at restaurants that I wouldn't ordinarily try. (1/10) Black Bean Burger
77. Make a list of ten people who inspire me and write them a note letting them know. (0/10)
78. Spend a whole day alone.
79. Send text messages to 15 different people with random thoughts to make them smile. (2/15)
80. Go wine tasting.
81. Take my kids skiing/snowboarding.
82. Sponsor another child through Plan USA.
83. Make a blog friend an "IRL" (in real life) friend.
84. Start painting (pictures, not walls).
85. Adopt a cat.
86. Plant a kitchen herb garden.
87. Grow heirloom tomatoes.
88. Learn to make pizza dough from scratch.
89. Can a year's supply of jam, apple pie filling, and peaches.
90. Take my son for a ride on a real fire truck.
91. Pick my own fruit at a farm.
92. Write a children's book and have my kids illustrate it.
93. Learn to use Photoshop or another photo editing software.
94. Send flowers to my mom for no reason.
95. Take my sisters-in-law out for a fun day. (0/2)
96. Be able to run 3 miles.
97. Hike South Mountain.
98. Stop and photograph ten random, funny, or interesting places while traveling for work. (1/10)
99. Host a dinner party to thank our wonderful neighbors for being...wonderful neighbors!
100. Give something I love away to someone who needs it more than I do.
101. Finish this list and think of 101 new goals!

Saturday, July 25, 2009

In Between

I hate the term "'tween" used in reference to those aged 8-12, or 9-13, or whatever range one means. It grates on my nerves in the same way that "play date" does.

These terms bring to mind images of Blackberry and iPhone toting supermommies syncing their Outlook calendars - jam packed with Junior's lessons, practices, meetings, and cookie sales - trying to figure out when a single moment is free so Junior can spend a few with Johnny doing kid stuff.

Not that kid stuff these days even remotely resembles what I knew as a child. But that's another post altogether.

Back to 'tween.

Short for "in between".

Not yet a teenager, but no longer a child.

In between.

Well, today my Devin had her 10th birthday party. At her request we took her and 7 companions to Build-A-Bear...you know, that place where kids choose, stuff and accessorize their own plush animals. This group had a great time, and it was so sweet to see them putting so much thought and effort into their selections.

Truly, a sweet, innocent kid activity.

Yet, during the party, there was my sweet, innocent kid...with a cell phone in her back pocket. Another of her birthday presents.

Kids don't need cell phones!

Teenagers don't want to go to Build-A-Bear!

Oh my goodness.

She is a 'tween.

UGH!

***Now don't even get me started on the whole how-creepy-is-it-stuffing-a-flaccid-shell-of-an-animal thing. I'm there! The kids love it though.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Today I could be sitting at home in Phoenix, trying desperately to avoid any responsibilities that would necessitate my braving 105+ degree weather.

Instead, I'm enjoying quiet time somewhere cool and green and full of hills and valleys and mountains and hollows (er, hollers?).

Today, I am grateful to be in West Virginia...



I may never want to go back home. At least, not until November!

Monday, June 29, 2009

Fingers Are Crossed

Baby #3 came home from preschool on Friday afternoon and proceeded to vomit profusely all over my house for the next 36 hours. Thank God for carpet cleaners and bleach (not in the carpet cleaner, of course).

Baby #2 woke up early this morning with an urgent need to hunch over the toilet as well. She's now paying frequent visits to bow before the porcelain throne.

Baby #1 and I have so far dodged the bullet, but I'm nervous as hell. The four of us are supposed to be boarding a cross-country flight with one layover tomorrow afternoon. The possibility of getting sick myself, while trying to shepherd my three children cross country by myself - especially when one of those three is a very active and strong-willed 21 month old boy - scares the crap out of me. No pun intended.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Make it Happen

This is the message I am getting from so many different directions.

I guess it's really a kinder, gentler way of telling me to shit or get off the pot. Quit mulling over all the things I wish I could do, want to do, can't wait to do, wish I had time to do...and just DO IT.

So, my life either becomes a Mariah Carey song or a Nike commercial, but I have got to make a radical change soon.

This could get messy.

****UPDATE****

After getting yelled at by a flustered colleague this afternoon, I realize I really need to quit procrastinating and start making the next chapter in my life happen - NOW!

I'm listening...

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

A Little Slice of Heaven

I returned to my real life in Phoenix on Monday evening. It was sheer joy to see my husband and children again. I missed them like crazy. However, I'd be lying if I didn't admit that it was a treat to spend four and a half relaxing days in Miami, reconnecting with one of my oldest friends.

Actually, let me rephrase that. One of my friends of longest duration.

In addition to renewing our connection, I also had the good fortune to make a new friend as well. Carmindy's friend Pascale was also visiting, so the three of us had a weekend filled with great food, great wine, and lots of girl talk. I can't remember the last time I did that.

My friend's house is the perfect retreat. It's in a quiet neighborhood, surrounded by tropical flowers and trees. She has created an oasis of peace, and it was dreamy to be able to spend time there.








These last two photos are of the room I stayed in. I adore the carved piece above the head of the bed. It's an astrological calendar she had imported from Myanmar. Okay, it probably cost more than my monthly salary, but it was gorgeous!

After surviving the Great South Beach Flood of 2009, we decided to stick close to home on Saturday, and enjoyed a delicious home-grilled meal. Salmon, asparagus, and a mind-boggling kale salad. I'm craving it today!






On Saturday night we did the mandatory Miami nightlife experience. I got to meet some of Carm's friend's from New York, and we had a great time. Most of the evening was spent sitting in awe of the fact that many folks in Miami are still living in the 1980s. Amazing! Amusing!









One of the highlights of the trip for me was spending the day Sunday out on a boat with Carmindy, Pascale, and two other fabulous women named Dee and Melody. Five girls, a boat, great food, cocktails, and a beautiful afternoon...dreamy!









My husband was worried about pirates. I told him we were covered.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Crazy Weather

Yes, I know it's officially hurricane season, and I know that what I experienced today wasn't even close to the insanity of a true hurricane, but I got to experience wild Florida weather for sure.

The day started off beautiful and sunny, and I spent the first few hours in the pool at my friend's house.




Then we decided to head to South Beach for lunch and a dip in the ocean. By the time we finished eating at a place called The Ice Box (divine, by the way), the skies were looking a little dark, but we walked down Lincoln Road to Collins Avenue and accessed the beach by the Delano. It was looking even sketchier once we hit the sand and looked around.






My friend ran and took a 2 minute swim, then we grabbed our stuff and headed into the hotel because the storm was coming.



And was it ever.

It started with a good downpour, which soon deteriorated into gale-force winds, hail, and massive lightning and thunder. We felt pretty safe on the sheltered patio of the Delano. I got a little misted from blown rain as I sipped my Arnold Palmer and enjoyed the show. We marveled at the sheer brilliance of idiots with metal-tipped umbrellas, walking out into the storm when lightning was striking all around us.



Eventually the manager rounded up all the brave souls on the patio and ushered us into the hotel lobby area. It was getting dangerous, as palm fronds and pieces of hotels' facades were beginning to fly around. We were stranded inside the Delano for several hours because the valets refused to retrieve any of the parked vehicles, even after the worst of the storm passed. Another friend had joined us shortly before the storm hit, and was going to give us a ride back to our vehicle, but the valets wouldn't get her car.

We went outside eventually, and we saw why.




This was taken after the water had begun receding somewhat.

We eventually got the car (thank God it was an SUV) and began to make our way to my friend's vehicle.

The flooding we saw was remarkable.







This is one of my favorite pictures though...



This woman's smile and positive attitude were incredible! We called out to her and she just grinned and waved, seemingly unfazed by the situation. What an inspiration!

Upon opening the doors to my friend's car, we found several inches of water on the floor. It looks like the water levels had been high enough at one point to flood it. Her car is an SUV as well, by the way!

It took us a good 45 minutes to an hour to get out of South Beach, due to the flooding and resulting traffic back-ups. My friend decided that "survival of the fittest" was the best approach, and took advantage of her SUV's higher clearance to maneuver us around many of the snarls in traffic. Of course, this often involved driving through thigh-high pools of water and spraying everyone around us, many of whom had the car windows open. Ooops!




We made it home safely and decided to make it an order-in-and-watch-movies kind of evening.

Tomorrow's forecast?

More rain. Bring it on!

I'll Take It!

Okay, so I'm here in Miami, in the home of my dear friend who is treating me to a little R&R this weekend. It may not be a week of adventure in Dominica, but I'm happy to settle for this:




Not bad, right?

Wait until you see the rest of the house...

Thursday, June 4, 2009

On My Way

I'm sitting at the airport, waiting for my flight to board. This break is long overdue. The week has been stressful and I'm on the verge of snapping after three years in Phoenix without a real vacation.

About six months ago, a dear friend of mine offered to take me on a girls' trip for my 40th birthday in May. We had a great week of adventure planned in Dominica, hiking to the Boiling Lake, exploring the rain forest, lounging by the pool, getting massages. I was so looking forward to the trip. Unfortunately, life got in the way and some things came up that prevented her from making any far-flung trips for the moment.

This same friend lives in New York, but has a home in Miami. She called me last week to tell me that she had worked things out with my husband so that I could come visit her in Florida for a long weekend. The nature of her work includes a lot of travel, so she used her accumulated airline miles to send me a ticket - FIRST CLASS - to Miami.

I have never flown first class...always wanted to but, come on, $2000 for a four hour plane ride?

I remember taking a trip as a child and being escorted into first class by a flight attendant in order to use the restroom. The people sitting there had these magical hot fudge sundaes, served in real glass dishes, with real silverware. I thought it was the most amazing thing I'd ever seen, and it made quite an impression on me. Ever since, I've looked enviously at those lucky folks seated at the front of the plane as I wrestle my carry on bags down the aisle on my way to a cramped coach seat.

Today I get to be one of those people.

HELL YEAH!!!

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Note to Self...

...when you hear something behind you that sounds like a crumpling paper bag as you seat yourself in the car, it's probably your pants ripping.

Double check before walking around Target for thirty minutes.

Just in case.

Monday, May 25, 2009

101 in 1001

In case it has not already been made abundantly clear, I love reading other people's blogs. I enjoy seeing different opinions, points of view, and experiences from a variety of sources. From time to time, I'll catch an idea from a blog and decide to run with it (kind of like my last post...).

I came across a challenge on a blog I like to read. This blogger has given herself 1001 days to accomplish 101 different goals. I love this idea!

So here it goes. Below are 101 things I aim to check off my life's "to-do list" in the next 2.75 years.

May 26, 2009-February 21, 2012

Items that are italicized are in progress, bold are completed.

  1. Purchase a home.
  2. Go on a cruise with my husband and children.
  3. Take a real vacation with just my husband.
  4. Spend a "girls weekend" at a fancy resort with each of my daughters individually. (0/2)
  5. Learn Haitian Kreyol well enough to hold a conversation with a native speaker.
  6. Learn Hopi well enough to greet, thank, and complement my husband's grandma...without making her laugh (unless what I'm saying is supposed to, you know, actually be funny)!
  7. Learn to knit.
  8. Make a scrapbook for each of my daughters' elementary school years.
  9. Go a whole month with no soda.
  10. Take my mom to a day spa for "the works".
  11. Learn to make pie crust from scratch.
  12. Read "War and Peace".
  13. Go back to Haiti.
  14. Visit Hawaii.
  15. Get back in an outrigger for regular workouts.
  16. Make 3 new friends. (1/3)
  17. Leave a really big tip for a harried server at a restaurant.
  18. Write a letter to the corporate office of a business to compliment an employee.
  19. Rent a condo somewhere fun and treat my brother's family to a weekend getaway.
  20. Surprise my husband with a "kid-free" evening at home...just the two of us.
  21. Take my children on road trips to three places of historical significance/noted natural beauty (i.e., Mt. Rushmore, Washington, D.C., Grand Canyon) (1/3)
  22. Go back to New Orleans.
  23. Pay for breakfast/coffee for the person behind me at a drive through five times. (0/5)
  24. Submit a photo I've taken to National Geographic.
  25. Hand over a proposal, outline, and three completed chapters of "my book" to my well-connected friend (she offered...).
  26. Learn to dance.
  27. Swim laps three times a week for an entire summer.
  28. Get back down to my fighting weight.
  29. Speak only kind words for a whole day.
  30. Make beignets for breakfast.
  31. Learn to say "thank you" in ten different languages I don't already know. (0/10)
  32. Keep my car impeccably clean for a month.
  33. Enter all my tasks and appointments into my calendar for a month.
  34. Learn to sync my Blackberry with Outlook and my work calendar.
  35. Purge my closet and get rid of everything I don't actually wear, seriously.
  36. Give away/donate my "teacher stuff".
  37. Take my kids on bike rides at least twice a week for a whole season (but this IS Phoenix, so it won't be summer).
  38. Get my toenails painted blue with a pedicure.
  39. Add $50 to my Kiva.org loan fund.
  40. Learn how to create my own backgrounds, headers, and buttons for blogs.
  41. Teach my daughters how to cook their favorite meals.
  42. Make a one-of-a-kind piece of jewelry as a gift for someone.
  43. Help my daughters assemble brown bag lunches for the homeless and go with them to distribute the bags.
  44. Find a good translation of the Quran, read it, and decide for myself what Islam teaches.
  45. Reread the Bible, novel-style, start to finish.
  46. Hold a baby at a restaurant so that her mother can eat an entire meal at a relaxed pace, uninterrupted.
  47. Save enough to pay cash for a minivan for my family.
  48. Clear out my personal email inboxes.
  49. Fly First Class.
  50. Recycle something mundane by making it into something beautiful.
  51. Fully fund our emergency savings.
  52. Get back into a bikini (legitimately, not obliviously).
  53. Take a girls' trip with an old friend.
  54. Make a snap decision and be totally at peace with going on instinct, for once.
  55. Learn to bake bread from scratch.
  56. Acquire the tools do do home canning.
  57. Find a system of managing my coupons that is organized and efficient.
  58. Visit my uncle's family in Atlanta and meet all my cousins' children.
  59. Visit my other uncle in Wyoming and treat his wife to something special (because Lord knows, she so deserves it).
  60. Plan a weekend with my kids, my aunt-in-law (yes, I made that term up) and her son.
  61. Make peace with my mother-in-law.
  62. Renew my friendship with my ex-best friend in San Francisco.
  63. Spend a long weekend with my godfather and get back in touch with my faith.
  64. Take a capoiera class.
  65. Buy a lottery ticket and give it to a stranger.
  66. Go camping.
  67. Dye my hair red again.
  68. Decorate one room in my house in a Caribbean colonial style.
  69. Completely make over one room in my house using only things we already own, that have been given to us, found, or acquired for free (Freecycle, etc.).
  70. Make a summer dress for each of my daughters.
  71. Arrive early for every work commitment for a month.
  72. Attend a rally or fund raising event for a cause I support.
  73. Write letters every month to the child we sponsor in Uganda.
  74. Write a letter to one of my elected representatives.
  75. Photograph my children weekly for a year (0/52)
  76. Order ten things at restaurants that I wouldn't ordinarily try. (0/10)
  77. Make a list of ten people who inspire me and write them a note letting them know. (0/10)
  78. Spend a whole day alone.
  79. Send text messages to 15 different people with random thoughts to make them smile. (1/15)
  80. Go wine tasting.
  81. Take my kids skiing/snowboarding.
  82. Sponsor another child through Plan USA.
  83. Make a blog friend an "IRL" (in real life) friend.
  84. Start painting (pictures, not walls).
  85. Adopt a cat.
  86. Plant a kitchen herb garden.
  87. Grow heirloom tomatoes.
  88. Learn to make pizza dough from scratch.
  89. Can a year's supply of jam, apple pie filling, and peaches.
  90. Take my son for a ride on a real fire truck.
  91. Pick my own fruit at a farm.
  92. Write a children's book and have my kids illustrate it.
  93. Learn to use Photoshop or another photo editing software.
  94. Send flowers to my mom for no reason.
  95. Take my sisters-in-law out for a fun day. (0/2)
  96. Be able to run 3 miles.
  97. Hike South Mountain.
  98. Stop and photograph ten random, funny, or interesting places while traveling for work.
  99. Host a dinner party to thank our wonderful neighbors for being...wonderful neighbors!
  100. Give something I love away to someone who needs it more than I do.
  101. Finish this list and think of 101 new goals!
This was so hard! I spent over a week on this post. I feel inspired and motivated, and most of all excited about the future. I've got a lot to do. Time to get busy!

Still here...

I have been hard at work on a new post for over a week. Once I get it published, you'll see why it took so long.

In the mean time, I wanted to send some traffic here. It's a blog called "Peace in the Pandemonium", written by Jen. She just published her 600th post, and in honor of that accomplishment she is hosting a giveaway.

About 11 months ago, Jen had another giveaway that I won. I was not prepared for how good the goodies were going to be. Jen knows how to pack a great goody box, for sure!

Head on over to Jen's blog and check out her new giveaway contest. Maybe you'll win some fun treats too!

Saturday, May 2, 2009

My Five

I've been made aware of a great "project" out there:

"The Noticer Project is a worldwide movement to "notice" the five most influential people in your life! Noticing those five people can be as private (just a letter or email) or as public (posting to your Facebook page or joining The Noticer Project Facebook group) as you choose, but the movement is meant to encourage us to step outside our busy schedules and avoid waiting until a wedding, graduation or even a funeral to take notice of the special, influential people in our lives. By noticing those who have made a difference for you, you not only acknowledge their contribution, but you may gain a new perspective on your own journey. If you are noticed, you are encouraged to continue the movement by 'noticing' five people in your life!"

Okay, I'm game. But seriously, am I only limited to five individuals?

  1. Mrs. Elaine Nutt: One of the most intimidating teachers at Rosary High School, she was famous for busting anyone with chewing gum as well as for being a tough math teacher. I was terrified of her. Then, I ended up having her for not one, but TWO periods in tenth grade. She challenged the heck out of me in Geometry, and made me fall in love with the subject. I still can't fathom why anyone doesn't adore doing proofs or can't recall when to use ASA...she made it like breathing for me. Mrs. Nutt was also my teacher for Western Civilization that year. I know she was forced to take that extra period, and was probably not happy about it, but she did a fabulous job. She made me feel smart, and her encouragement and structure helped me learn confidence and responsibility in my schooling.
  2. Uyen Nguyen: This amazing woman moved in with my family when I was about 5 years old. She was a refugee from Vietnam, and she had lost everything. Uyen was educated, beautiful, and classy as hell. I can't even begin to imagine all she went through on the journey that led to her staying for almost two years in our guest room. I only saw her cry once the whole time she stayed with us. She was a rock. I adored her delicious cha giao and the elegant ao dais she wore. To this day she remains, in my mind, the ultimate example of a true lady.
  3. Arlington E. "Dick" Whitman: My Pop-Pop. Probably the one grandparent I was closest to, but ironically the only one not related to me by blood. Dick Whitman was my mom's stepfather, and had been married to my grandma when my mom was in her early teens. He was the most stabilizing influence in my mom's life, and later became a similarly steadying influence in mine. He was generous to a fault, hardworking, and funny as can be. I loved every minute he spent with us when I was growing up. I am so glad he lived long enough to be at my wedding, and to hold my firstborn child. I miss him like crazy.
  4. Matthew Moreno: My evil twin. Matt proved himself a true friend my last year of college. He fed me, kept me laughing, allowed me to hide my car at his place, and never passed judgment, even when he knew I was dating a serious loser. I was trying desperately to finish school before tuition hikes the next fall, taking double-overtime course loads (24-26 units a term...crazy), and had no time for a job. My dad was great about putting money on my meal card for the dining hall, but the money didn't always last through the month, and I hated asking for more. There were many times Matt would call when I had not eaten that day. The conversation often sounded something like this: (Matt) "What are you doing?" (Me) "Oh, studying..." (Matt) "Did you have dinner already?" (Me) "Umm, yeah sure, you know, went to the cafeteria..." (Matt) "Bullshit. Come over. I'm making chorizo and eggs. You can study here." Matt never mentioned the fact that his grocery bill had to have been a good 20% higher as a result of keeping me fed that year. He also never got on my case about the fact that I'd racked up so many parking tickets on campus that I couldn't park my car at the dorm for fear of it being booted. He just told me to park it at his place. No judgment. Finally, to this day I have no idea how he kept his mouth shut about the fact that my then-boyfriend was a huge dud. Matt demonstrated the meaning of true friendship with no strings attached. He is still one of the few people I trust without question, and know that if I called on him for anything, he'd be there in an instant.
  5. My husband: He's put up with me for over a decade. Anyone who knows me can attest to the fact that's a herculean accomplishment in itself. He's an awesome father and a patient, supportive spouse. I am a lucky girl.
Now it's your turn. Who are your five?

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Tax Refunds...Put 'Em to Work!

For the first time in a very long while, we received a fairly sizable refund from Uncle Sam this year. (I wish the same could be said for our state return, but oh well...)

We paid bills, socked some cash into savings (still hoping to make that new home purchase this summer), and treated the kids to some extra junk food while traveling to California last weekend.

Most significantly though, we were able to throw some financial support behind two of my favorite organizations: Kiva and Plan USA.





My daughters are excited about our family's sponsorship of a boy named Henry in Uganda, and also about being part of a group of individual donors helping to fund a microloan to a cattle farming co-op (also in Uganda).

You know what they say about teaching a man to fish...

Here's the canned blurb from the Kiva website:

I wanted to let you know about Kiva (www.kiva.org), a non-profit that allows you to lend as little as $25 to a specific low-income entrepreneur across the globe.

You choose who to lend to - whether a baker in Afghanistan, a goat herder in Uganda, a farmer in Peru, a restaurateur in Cambodia, or a tailor in Iraq - and as they repay their loan, you get your money back. It’s a powerful and sustainable way to empower someone right now to lift themselves out of poverty.


...and the one from Plan USA:

Plan is a global partnership of caring people founded in 1937 to bring hope and help to the world’s poorest children.

Plan began as a child sponsorship organization. Today, we are one of the oldest and largest organizations of our kind—our grassroots, self-help programs assist more than 10 million children and their families in poor communities around the world.
We are proudly private, not for profit, and respectful of local religions and cultures—we have no agenda other than helping kids.


I love that both organizations emphasize self-sufficiency.

Perhaps more importantly, I love that both have a no-religious-strings-attached approach. I wholeheartedly applaud the wonderful works done across the globe by so many church-affiliated groups, but it's just not for me. I have a major problem with the concept of aid coming with religious conditions. Somehow it just doesn't sit right with me, any more than it would if I expected someone to become a Democrat or join my book club just because I helped them out of a sticky situation.

Simplistic? Perhaps.

I know a whole lot of evangelicals who would argue that feeding the soul is more important than feeding the body, that salvation in the next life is more critical than saving a starving child in this one.

Who am I to say they're incorrect?

It's just not my thing.

I say feed the kid, build the clinic, teach the mom to read, help the goat farmer get an extra couple acres of grazing land...do something, strings or not.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Who Knew?

It's been a long time since I purchased a greeting card. I have software on my computer that allows my family to create our own, personalized cards for special occasions. I think they look as nice as anything store-bought, and I like that they come from the heart. We enjoy looking for just the right quote or piece of poetry to include, importing photos or clip art, and making something fun and unique.

Well, I was running short on time preparing for our trip to California this weekend. While out picking up a final gift for my nephew, I realized it would save some time and effort if I went ahead and picked up a card at the store I was visiting.

Then I learned an ugly truth.

I have apparently been overlooking momentous, card-worthy occasions in the lives of my family, friends and neighbors for all these years!

You see, they actually make greeting cards for all of the following occasions:

  • losing a tooth
  • getting a cat
  • potty training
  • earning a Girl Scout badge
  • scoring a point in a ballgame
  • getting a dog
...as well as a plethora of other random occasions deemed notable enough to merit dropping $1.99 or more to commemorate.

So, dear friends, I hope you can find it in your hearts to forgive the fact that I've neglected to adequately recognize all those teeth your kiddos lost. I apologize with all my heart for failing to congratulate your children for crapping on the toilet - with a card. My gosh, how could I have missed the chance to let you know - on paper - how awesome and special you are for adopting a fur-baby or nabbing that sewing patch from your creepy scout leader?

I honestly didn't know those were Hallmark occasions!

Going Back to Cali

I am looking forward to an all-too-brief visit to California this weekend. My nephew is being baptized on Saturday, and we are going! This will be the first time since we moved away that my whole family will go back to Huntington Beach. I have gone back several times with the kids, and a couple times by myself, and my husband has gone several times by himself, but never all together. That's right, in almost three years, we have never found the time to return as a family before now.

Funny, I always got such a guilt trip about the fact that, when we lived there we only made it out to Arizona for whole-family visits to my in-laws a few times a year...

...but waiting THREE YEARS to see my family is not a big deal, apparently.

Sorry, is the resentment seeping off the page searing your monitor?

I'm taking deep breaths and trying to focus on the positive. It's been too long coming, but we are going - as a family - to spend a day or so with my parents and my brother's family and his in-laws. For that, I am so grateful. I am even more excited because, for the last 16 months, my mother hasn't been in California herself. She's been in West Virginia dealing with family business. My daughters have missed their "Sugarbear" so much, and she has not even seen my son since he was three months old, so we're way overdue for some family time.

Finally, we'll all be in the same place for a precious few hours on Saturday!

Monday, April 20, 2009

100 Degrees and No Sugar

...makes for a very crabby girl.

The days of blast furnace heat have arrived once again. As a good friend of mine said, this is "divorce weather". I don't like the heat.

At all.

If I had known how inaccurate those cost-of-living comparison figures were before we moved to Phoenix, I never would have moved here. I hate it here. I truly hate it. I have tried for almost three years to see beauty in the desert. Nope, it's just brown and dusty and ugly. With scorpions. Ugh!

It is not even May, and my air conditioner is cranked. It will remain so for at least five to six months.

I am also on a very strict diet at the moment which eliminates all refined sugar and flour and grain, in the hopes of getting my blood sugar stabilized and killing off a proliferation of digestive yeast.

Heat + no sugar = cranky pants.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

To Hell and Back...

...or actually, just Sanders, Arizona.

Don't get me wrong. Sanders is a perfectly nice place. Perfectly nice if you like really small towns, just off the reservation. As in, a town with a teeny-tiny little post office, a school or two, a "diner" that consists of a trailer with a couple additions and not-so-great service, and a whole bunch of super nice residents.

And no, there was no sarcasm implied in that last sentence. Everyone I've met in Sanders was very nice (except the server at the diner, that is).

It's just that Sanders is so far from Phoenix, and the nearest decent motel to Sanders is still over 50 miles away. Add to that the fact that Sanders schools - where I worked today - observe Daylight Saving Time since their students primarily live on the Navajo Reservation, and the rest of Arizona does not.

Confused?

I had to be in Sanders at 8:30 this morning, which was really 7:30 for me, and I had to drive an hour to get there. So I had to leave at 6:30 to drive an hour and arrive there at 8:30... just too early for me!

Add to that the fact that I do not sleep well away from home, and the fact that I drove through insane weather conditions to get to Holbrook last night. 50-60+ mph winds, snow, blowing dust...it was an adventure to say the least. Once again though, my good old Maxima was a tank and got me there and back safely. 200K+ miles on the odometer, dents and dings, stained carpet and all, Max is my hero.

I added another bizarre Arizona place name to my list today. Check this out, from beautiful downtown Holbrook:

Photo credit: Tristan Tom (http://www.flickr.com/photos/mediahound/473245947/)

What the hell happened here?


One bonus of this work trip was the opportunity to make a new acquaintance. While stuffing my face with the complementary breakfast at my motel, I enjoyed a nice conversation with a fascinating woman I met. A retired journalist from Connecticut, she now enjoys painting, traveling and working on behalf of an amazing organization that supports animal shelters. I look forward to getting to know her better online, through her art and her blogs. It seems as though she's led an intriguing and adventure-filled life!

Her art blog is HERE and her project supporting shelter animals is HERE.

Carrie, it was a pleasure meeting you. Thanks for the company!

Friday, April 10, 2009

Don't Know How I Feel About This...

This week I was confronted with two dilemmas. I am still trying to process my feelings about both. Ugh, it's so confusing!

First, on Wednesday night my husband and I attended parent orientation at the middle school our firstborn child will attend in the fall. Holy hell, when did my baby girl become an adolescent??!!! As we sat in the auditorium of this enormous, cavernous, immense, and overwhelming facility (that absolutely dwarfs the high school I attended, by the way...), listening to the administrators give a breakdown of the schedules, options, policies, and whatnot, I started to cry.

Yes, I was the blubbering mom in the back of the crowd. I'm sure my husband was mortified when I started tearing up, mumbling "I don't know if I'm ready for this."

This sweet little baby girl...



...is now this young lady.



Crap, that was too soon!


Oh, and her "baby" sister...




follows just one year later...


Sooooo not ready for this. Trying to breathe...


Dilemma #2 is one of a more ethical nature. First a little background though...my husband is a full-blooded, enrolled member of one of the Native American tribes indigenous to the state where we live. Growing up, there were many, many times his family had to make do with very little. The poverty present on Indian reservations throughout North America cannot be overstated. (Those "casino tribes" are the exception by the way, and my husband's tribe is opposed to gaming for ethical and spiritual reasons, so don't even try and go there...).

Anyway, several charities and churches provide assistance to children and families on the Rez. At Christmas time, gifts from Toys for Tots may be some of the only presents a child there receives. A box of staples from a charitable organization often means a family gets to eat dinner tonight when otherwise they might not. Serious stuff.

So, how does this pose a dilemma for me? Well, for the third time since we moved back to this state, my mother-in-law (who does live on the Rez) picked up donated items for our family...two huge boxes of canned and dried foods, toiletries, books for children, paper goods, cosmetics, etc. this time. She picked up a similar bunch of donations on our behalf last year, and also a bunch of Toys for Tots items for our kids at the Holidays.

We do not live on the Rez. We live in a solidly middle-class suburb, in a comfortable home with running water and electricity. We do not rely on a wood stove for heat in the winter, and we don't have to hike down the side of a mesa to get to the outhouse when nature calls.

I don't think the generous folks who donated canned food, toys, and personal care items had my family in mind.

To be fair, there have been times when money was tight. Painfully tight. As in trip-to-the-foodbank-tight. We've been there. It sucks. I hope life never puts us back there again.

We have also made a point of being the people who donate to the local resource center. We know the need is real, and we feel it's important to do what we can to help those whose need is greater than ours.

(CVS certainly helps in this department, by the way, but that could be a whole post of its own.)

I know my mother-in-law's intentions were good, but I am extremely uncomfortable receiving these items. I feel guilty accepting them, but don't know how to decline without offending my MIL. These kinds of donations are such a part of life where they are from that I don't think I could explain my feelings without hurting hers or insulting her.

I packed up the boxes and sent them on to my brother-in-law and his wife, who live down the street from us. They are actually in a pinch at the moment, being one of the many families who's experienced first-hand layoffs and unemployment. I figure they could use it, and if not, they will hopefully forward the items to the local resource center.

What to do, what to do... I just don't want to be in this position again.

Oh, and I don't want my babies to grow up so fast either!