Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Not a big fan of pipe cleaners R2?

"Umm, excuse me Lord Popoki, uh, would you be so kind and give me a little help here?"

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

The real me, the real you

My favorite auntie is here visiting from a small town in Georgia and boy, I've missed her. Me and my mom lived with her and my cousin after both of them divorced our dads when we were around five. My mom was the mother hen, keeping order, discipline, a wholesome diet, and restricted tv. My auntie gave us freedom to be wild, Hostess Ding Dongs, and the Newlywed Game. Our household was in a perfect crazy balance. So, while we were watching my kids dance the silly dance around the room, I said to my auntie that Talia is nothing like I was as a kid and she replied "Oh, she's just like you were when your mother wasn't around. When it was just me, you let your guard down and wanted to be the leader, were bossy, and much more outgoing. You censured yourself, while Talia holds nothing back".
Huh? This is news to me. While Talia looks like my very own mini-me, I convinced myself that this strong self-confident born-leader is nothing like the quiet reserved me that I remember. This got me thinking, who really knows the real me? I'm talking the true me that speaks from my soul, full of optimism and fears, loves and struggles.

When I first meet people, I try to figure them out - find out where they are coming from - what makes them tick. I am always weary of people that present themselves way over the top, like Robin Williams or Richard Simmons. I know someone that always presents this larger than life joking flamboyant persona, yet I wonder what he is like at home (what I would give to be a fly on his wall). Does he talk to his dog that way or does he come down to earth and talk "normal"? I'm picturing a Saturday Night Live skit. It's a mystery to me.

Am I a mystery to people? Do I put up too much of a wall? Do people wonder what makes me tick? I would hope that all this work on friendships, having babies, marriage, and feeling more free in my thirties and almost forties has chipped away at that wall, allowing me to be more open, less self conscious, and more confident. Yet, I've known some friends for years and I still only show my outer self to them, mainly because they barely reveal themselves to me. Or, how come I can go years without seeing someone and reunite in person feeling immediately like no time has gone by? Still, some people get me to open up right away. Today, I had a particularly difficult morning with a way-too-early 5:32am wake up, Talia crying eight times over stupid stuff, fighting over the blue Playdoh, a 7:59pm email from my boss last night requesting a huge report this morning (should not open work email before 9am), trying to get that report done while they are fighting and crying, and just general crankiness. When my new red headed writer mom friend asked me if I was okay this morning as I was leaving (hiding) school , do you know how badly I wanted to steal her away to breakfast this morning so I could talk and share and relate about my bad day?! Maybe it's because she puts it all out there in person and in her writing that invites me to safely do the same. I like that. I need that. Luckily, I have people in my life that offer that, and I'm always happy to have more.

I admire the fact that my kids let it all hang out and don't hold anything back, although sometimes it's not always in my best interest, like when I'm trying to get work done or am running late for school. Of course, they are on their best behavior at school, or at least I hope so, and act the same around all of their friends. But, come to think of it, they do act more reserved around new people, more silly around silly friends, and more protective around those with special needs. Maybe it's more ingrained than I realize, and I'm vowing to go easier on myself. It's just a subject that no one really talks about but something that's often on my mind. And, even though only a few people (that I already know) actually read my blog, it sure is a therapeutic way to put it all out there and grow.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Those damn piles

I mostly work at home. I see a lot of the inside of my house. Now that my kids are in school, I should theoretically have more time to clean, accomplish projects, and make apple pies. Funny thing, though, my house still gets just as messy and it feels like I have less time to keep up with it all. Everyone said this would be the case and now I get it. Wow, the amount of paper that comes out of those backpacks is mind blowing, the laundry still piles up, and my bathrooms still get scary dirty (little boy + peeing in and around the toilet and wall = stinky). But, what bothers me most of all is the piles. TONS of piles everywhere. And I hate clutter. I don't do clutter. I pride myself in keeping things simple. Sometimes I think I'm helping things by gathering the various small piles and making one BIG pile, but then the big pile just gets shuffled around. And, when people come over to my house, I move the unsightly pile(s) to my bedroom and close the door in shame. Then, new piles accumulate where the old piles where and now it's worse. They are sooo cluttery that sometimes I just want to light a match and have a bonfire because the thought of having to sort through them is nauseating. But, really, they are just a collection of little things that all have a purpose and place somewhere, even if it's the recycling bin, so why does it feel so overwhelming?

This is the combo pile currently on my kitchen table. I did not stage this. It is real. It includes noisy-noses, a Chuck postcard, bills, catalogs, pipe cleaners, and a broken necklace. I am horrified. Where do I begin?

This is at the end of my bed on a pretty wrought iron bench (aka clutter keeper). It's a pile of clean clothes that need folding and putting away. I have since done six loads of laundry, all folded and put away, yet, I walk past this particular pile every day for a week and do nothing like it's toxic material.

Bathroom counter pile. This is stuff that was in my drawer, and that I took out of my drawer because I couldn't close the drawer, and now it is all on my counter and I don't know where to put everything.

Quinn is obsessed with pipe cleaners. The creative fun is unlimited. You saw the hanging window art a few posts ago? That was only the beginning. This pile was created by me gathering up the various creations from all over the house. What do you do with a pile of twisted pipe cleaners?

This pile is on my nightstand. Why do I have three pens there? And, the jewelry. I have a very handy and efficient hanging clear pocket organizer for my jewelry, but these didn't quite make it there. Note to self: take off necklace, put in jewelry pocket, done. No clutter. Grrr.

Again, see that modern cubed shoe rack?! It's for shoes. Did we have an earthquake or was I just too lazy to return the shoes to their rightful organized place?

This is my famous nightstand pile of books that lives below my other jewelry/pen pile on top. These are either books I want to read, books I started but never finished but need to finish, parenting books, borrowed books, a Dr. Seuss book, and various magazines about being organized.

So, bottom line, I need to dedicate some time asap to cleaning up these piles because a cluttered home makes an anti-clutter person like me totally insane and jittery. My husband is totally unaware of my current angst - he's too busy going through his piles and piles of old records that he's recording as mp3's. Not that I'd want him to touch any of my piles because he doesn't have a clue where anything goes. Ugh, it's all too much...I think I'll go play on Facebook.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Mommy Weirdo

When I was pregnant, I bought three books of names for babies. If I couldn't find the right names in the book with 10,000 names, I would certainly find the perfect ones in the 50,000 name edition or the Every Name Ever Used in the History of the World book. We highlighted, wrote lists, researched on the Internet, and slowly narrowed the field of potential names. Since I didn't know if I was having a boy and a girl, two girls, or two boys, it was, um, challenging to say the least. Plus, we had to find a middle name that sounded right and based on the right combinations. And, yes, we counted syllables. Jason's main criteria was "the name cannot be shortened or nicknamed" (Elizabeth = Beth, Liz, or Richard = Rich, Dick, etc.) and rhyming with a bad word had to be avoided, too (Bart = fart). I was going more sentimental, even considering the name Ivy because that was Jason's grandmother's name and Greta because The Sound of Music is one of my favorite movies of all time. Long story short, the day we were due to check out of the hospital and felt the pressure to sign the birth certificate, we (along with our close family and friends) decided on the final names due to instinct, gut feelings, baby personalities, and the wild orange cupi-doll head-to-toe hair that just had to be a feisty Irish name like Quinn. In Hebrew the name Talia means "morning dew", but a friend recently told me that Talia means "applaud" in Hindi, which is totally fitting for our dramatic future actress Leo daughter who cried for 20 minutes today because she didn't get to be the head of the line at school (she thrives on being first at everything). The naming the babies saga was worth the effort.

I always loved having an unusual name. I didn't like going with the crowd and having a pretty old Russian name helped me be a bit different. The only time it wasn't so great was in school when a new teacher couldn't pronounce my name, when well meaning friends shortened it to "Dar" (major cringe), or when my cousins called me, and this is both painful and funny to write, "Diarrhea Weirdo". Kids are so cruel.

Today, when I had a few precious minutes alone with Quinn, he told me that his favorite school friend called him a name today and he didn't like it, and he told this friend he didn't like that, then his friend declared they weren't friends anymore. Gearing up for the worst, I asked him what his (former) friend called him that was soooo horrific and friendship ending?? Turns out his friend said "Hey Fire Breathing Dragon! Come over here and play!". It took all my will from laughing out loud. That boy is funny... and my kid is too serious!

What is it about the common human experience that we feel compelled to call people different names other than what they were carefully given as a baby? I get the fact that we wear different hats in our lifetime with new names attached, like mommy, gramma, mother-in-law, Mrs. President, etc., but what's with the other names like meanie, poo poo head, and The Old Lady??? I guess it's like curse words. It's simple to say "ouch, that hurt", but it feels waaaaay better to yell "F.U.C.K. $!@#%&*!!!!!!" or "slut!".

I guess it is what it is, sometimes name calling hurts and other times it's just plain funny. I dread the day my kids start calling me MOTHER (or worse). I really love being "You are the best mommy in the whole wide world to the stars and back". I just have to relish the affectionate names, like being called honey by my sweet husband and BFF by my best friend. Those names are precious and totally make up for the not so great Diarrhea Weirdo Braceface Four-eyes days of my youth.

***Baby A (Talia) and Baby B (Quinn) in the hospital***

Monday, October 20, 2008

Memory lane and bumpy roads

(5h grade yearbook picture of myself I've never seen before Saturday)

Barely two months into school and my twin kindergartners are already bonding with new friends in their class - holding hands, having playdates, and missing them on the weekends. They each have their favorite school friend, but other friends are easily made, too. They will announce "I sat next to Sophia and now we are friends" or "Sam asked if I would be his friend and I said 'yes'". And, as an unexpected bonus, I'm also becoming friends with the fabulous playdate moms. Cha ching!

So, while we are all venturing into new friend territory, I've had a recent surge of reuniting with old classmates and friends (yea for Facebook!). Just in the past few months, I am now in touch with two friends from early elementary school, two sisters that my mom used to watch in her home daycare and later went to school with me, and a former roommate/friend from my early 20’s (who I'm meeting for lunch this week!).

It’s interesting how in my mid-twenties, I barely had any friends and felt a huge sad hole in my life. I made major choices that badly affected my friendships, but at the time I felt it was right, so I can't be too hard on myself. I was immature, bad at coping with hard stuff, and in survival mode. Hey, we all were. Fortunately, I found my amazing husband, but still felt like something was missing without close friends. When my grandmother died, I didn’t have a single friend to call that I thought would care enough to come over and comfort me with hugs and a casserole. I blame no one but myself, because I never really understood what it took to find, make, and keep friends. It didn’t help that I’m horrible with small talk and it takes me a while to warm up to people and let my guard down (one of my biggest faults). So, what I did was consciously study people who seemingly had a lot of friends and that made me want to be their friend, too. What I noticed was that these people made every friend feel very special to them, needed, and appreciated. Of course, it's way more complicated than just that, but still, there was so much to learn and practice.

Well, here I am many years later and luckily I don’t have the friend hole in my heart anymore. Although I will probably never have tons and tons of friends (like everyone else on the planet ha ha ha), the ones I have now, both old and new, I love and cherish. And, every day I am still learning about and practicing being a good friend, sometimes not doing so well and other times pleasantly surprising myself. I think this will take a lifetime to get right.

This past weekend I hugged and visited with some of these “old” friends in person at a sort of reunion weekend. It was surreal and marvelous to hug these women that I last knew as little girls in 5th grade. Now, we are the ones with children (talk about surreal watching our kids play together).

Some say that people from our past can show us who we once were, and that’s true to some extent. I also believe that these friendships make us who we are today, no matter how long or short of a time they were in our lives. Friends are a huge part of our memories, experiences, and lessons in life, both good and not so good. I think I’m at a point in my life where I can look back on my past friendships with love rather than regret.

I hope that I can pass on my friendship wisdom to my kids so they don’t have my same hang-ups as me. Funny, though, that I can probably learn much more from watching their simple and sweet friendships than over-analyzing mine. I do envy them. They can simply be in the playful moment, not thinking about whether the other kid already has too many friends and won't want to be their friend, or that they are boring, or that they won't want to be friends tomorrow because of something they said or did. It doesn't always have to be so damn complicated (like I tend to make things) and can sometimes just be fun in the moment, and hopefully save the heavier stuff for when it's truly needed.

(me and the sisters from daycare)

(former 5th grade classmates...don't we look hot

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Keep on the sunny side

We had a few scary smokey worried days here in the Valley. Although we personally did not face evacuations or any eminent threats, we were concerned about friends with homes in danger, the air quality (I have asthma), animals, and fears over losing beloved parks and hiking spots. Now that the air is much much clearer (thank goodness!), Quinn is still coughing, Jason's throat is sore from the smoke, and I'm needing to use my Advair for my asthma and tight lungs every twelve hours. It could be much much worse.

So, being the optimist and writer of a blog that looks for the small happy stuff in life, I happen to notice a surprising amount of good things today. And, to those that are having a bad day/week/month, please don't hate me for being so chipper, but I can't help it. This good day is waaaay overdue and I'm going to acknowledge it dammit.

- Quinn found his inner creative out-of-the-box self that's was missing for a while, and recreated the wire sculptures he saw on Reading Rainbow this morning. He dug into the craft bin, declared "I found the pipe cleaners yeaaaa!", and went on to create hanging art on the playroom curtain rod. Do you see the hanging mummy?
- I drove to my favorite hiking spot that I feared had burned in the fire, having to see for myself, and...I saw green...lots of green! The fire only got the upper section where we rarely take the kids but where I hike with my cousin (all 1.4 miles of it). Our favorite "fishing" spot was saved. What a relief! Those brave firefighters are incredible.

- I go to my favorite Goodwill to buy bigger sized clothes for the growing kids, and, oh ya baby, all kids clothes are only $.99 each on special today (regularly $3.99). I buy 21 really nice items and pay $21. Normal price would be $84. Cha ching!
- Lunch was a homemade delicious and decadent crispy bacon, ripe avocado, and cheese sandwich with red vines on the side. Yummm..

- Our friendly gardener/handyman extraordinaire finally arrived and is fixing our ailing fence. Now, I can stop obsessing over it.
- One of my favorite bloggers who went from a suffering waiter to best selling author practically overnight is on Oprah today. Oprah!
- My new school mom professional writer friend called me a "writer". Me? Yes, Me.
When I arrive home late afternoon after their Wednesday gym class, Jason greets us at the door looking like total crap. The dedicated defender of our once smoky freeways has a fever and sore throat and feels horrible and crawls back into bed. Then, I scold Quinn for dumping his (expensive) castle on the floor and he starts crying (and getting that face) saying that he's sad about what I said to him and now he thinks that "I don't love him anymore". And, it all goes downhill from there. Aaaaah, whew, this is more like the up and down life I know and love. I just have to smile...and pour myself a tall glass of wine. Cheers!

Monday, October 13, 2008

Smoke in your eyes

So, we had one of those lovely satisfying weekends. I spent Saturday at a clothing swap with about twenty other eclectic and fabulous women (think 7 full racks of clothes, shoes, wine, salad, and desserts in a beautiful Hollywood style rounded archways home). Sunday, we went to a bird themed birthday party and came home to decorate birdhouses and gingerbread cookies. We went from tears of sadness Friday night because there was no school the next day to being disappointed that the weekend was coming to a close.

Ah, but today is a different story. We have two fires burning within a few miles of our home and fierce cold winds making matters worse. Our eyes are burning and itchy, our skin parched dry, our throats scratchy, and it smells like smoke in our home. My backyard fence that was slightly leaning is now on the verge of going completely horizontal with one more huge gust of wind. I've checked obsessively on the falling fence all day even though there is nothing I can do about it but wait for the fence guy to come in two days.
But, my fence isn't on fire and I'm not evacuated to a school gymnasium like so many people today. My kids were skillfully entertained inside all day today by caring (and brave) teachers, a video, and the letter "N", and they are now making elaborate playdough creations and getting along great.

According to my cop husband, the fire that is so close to us was stared deliberately. This is coming from a guy who stood on the freeway in blanketed in thick smoke next to the remains of a burned car (and person) that turned around on the closed freeway and hit a tow truck head on.

So, when I reach for my asthma inhaler while watching the smoke and flames in the mountains nearby (yes, I can see flames), I'm wishing for the best for all of those tired firefighters, scared residents, volunteers, and animals. Funny, well, maybe not so funny, how things can turn around so quickly and go from la la la fun fun fun to such tragedy overnight.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Blemishes and chocolate

When you have kids, all of your flaws, vulnerabilities, and weaknesses get exposed and tested, constantly. To make it worse, when you are expecting your monthly visitor Aunt Flow (aka pmsing), everything gets compounded for the worse. I have two massive zits on my face from my monthly surge of female hormones and thank goodness my kids let me know that and point them out because I just didn't notice the volcano and Mount Everest on my face. The other day during our precious and sweet moments of 6am cuddle time, Talia said "mommy, your breath is very stinky pee eew!". They notice any hole or stain in my clothes, wrong turn down the wrong street, and any other lapse in being the perfect mommy...ha ha ha.

I don't always notice it's "that time" until I start getting emotional over trivial things. For instance, I'm eating my Ritter Sport Milk Chocolate with Butter Biscuit while watching the Biggest Loser and start crying when contestants get emotional during personal triumphs and breakthroughs. I also started tearing up in frustration over an ongoing work project that is moving forward but yet going nowhere and I held myself back from sending an email saying "Can't any of you F'ing get anything F'ing done or are you too busy doing nothing that you can't fix this $!@#%&* mess??!!", but, alas, that might not go over too well.

What's the answer? First, I look around and remind myself how lucky I am...and that I finally have the day alone to be my emotional blubbering bitchy pmsing self in private. And, in a few minutes when I get ready to pick up my kids from school, I'll rub in some makeup cover-up, brush my teeth, and put on a smile. I'm thinking that when my daughter tells me my breath stinks it means she's still cuddling close enough to me to notice, when they see my blemishes it reminds me I'm not invisible (like I feel sometimes), and by pointing out holes or stains in my clothes it saves me from potential public embarrassment. Okay, that was heavy, I think I'll go cry now...

Wednesday, October 8, 2008


I tried and tried before, made it my life mission, and now I finally got my picture posted on Faces in Places! I'm so proud.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Sea chanteys

So, one our favorite live bands, Great Big Sea, is on tour in the States from NewFoundland promoting their latest cd. We were turned on to them by a boss/friend of mine many years ago and I'm forever grateful to her. They are tremendous fun to see live not only because their music gets you dancing and singing along, but their fans are always ready for a good time, too. They sing mostly folk sea songs from NewFoundland that sound sort of Irish but not really and, well, it's just hard to describe. You have to experience them live to understand it. We've seen them four times already, this weekend making concert #5.

There were playing at the House of Blues in Los Angeles, but we saw them there once and hated the sound, and, honestly, we never like any shows there and vowed to never go back. So, luckily they also have Santa Barbara on the schedule. Ah, the perfect excuse to make a weekend of it and have a little couple's getaway. And my mom is ready willing and able to kid sit for the weekend. Yes, that means a vacation minus the kids. For two whole nights.

Our last trip together was last October in Big Sur for our 10th wedding anniversary. And, while that felt like ages ago and almost embarrassing that we let so much time go by, but we also realize that many of our couple friends have never been so lucky to have such a luxury like this. We are extremely blessed. And, I wish I could return the favor for my friends. I'll work on that.

We ate really well, slept in until 8am each day (unbelievable, I know), walked along the ocean, looked at art, talked about adult stuff like music and life, saw a great show by a great band, found a great "faces in places" at my favorite cooking store, and didn't have to responsible for anyone but ourselves. I'm glad we still like each other after almost 11 married years.
Now that we are all home, I thought the kids would want to play with me. But, alas, right now they are busy with their puppet shop and mystery island expedition. Not sure whether they missed us or their toys more, but that's okay.

(here is where we ate delicious breakfast...twice)

(the beautiful old theatre where we saw GBS)

(smiling spoons at Sur La Table)

(the puppet shop - can you spot R2?)