Sunday, April 26, 2009

Making time

During a girl’s night out Saturday night, I chatted with a dear friend in between rounds of loud opera singing waiters (fun but not great for talking). My friend revealed how much she felt overwhelmed and exasperated over her busy hectic life, but ironically when she has a few minutes to spare, she finds herself feeling panicked like she should find something productive to do. It’s a common complaint I hear among fellow moms, and it only gets worse as our children’s lives get busier and busier.

I do best with an easy routine, gently filled with social time, personal time, and down time. I don’t do well being too busy with an over scheduled calendar. I realize lots of people feel it’s best to keep full of activity and productivity and to expose children to a variety of activities to be well rounded and to stay out of trouble. There is nothing wrong with that if it works for them. But, somewhere in that busy life I believe there must be some time for no plans and no pressure - time to decompress, rejuvenate, and to veg out.

I’m certainly not an expert in the Jewish faith, but I do know that Saturday is a day to walk to temple, follow religious traditions, be with family at home, and not exert any unnecessary energy. Hooray for that! For many others Sunday is a day for church – a place to find comfort and to get grounded. Yes! The underlying theme, no matter what the religion, is a mandated day of rest. We need it and we owe it to ourselves and there is reason why it’s been done and worked so well for hundreds of years.

Although my family doesn’t attend church or temple, we generally honor Sunday as a day to relax. Our Sunday has evolved over the last few years to include many important rules: wear pajamas as long as you want, change sheets (start the week fresh), kid’s computer time (a real treat for them), a special yummy dessert, etc., and also a general attitude of relaxation and leisure. I do my best to not stress over the massive mess from fort making or dirty dishes from baking cookies. What matters most is all the good stuff – the quality time. Sure the kids love to be with us, but it is extra bonus for us to be with them doing their stuff. Quinn still talks about how it was “the best” when Jason spent an hour or so building a Lego firestation and fire truck with him a few Sundays ago. If I draw or work on a puzzle with Talia, she is in her element with a constant smile and lots of “I love you’s” and hugs.

The school day is long, the week zooms by, and we all get tired and depleted. I can’t imagine not allowing my family any down time. It’s as necessary as school is for learning, exercise is for health, and work is for making money, although our day of rest is the certainly most rewarding of all.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Make a wish, R2

"Awww shucks, guys, you really shouldn't have. And favorite! Yummy yum yum.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Hello pink eye

My kindergartners went back to school on Tuesday after a short spring break. It was bittersweet for sure. During the break we did lots of fun stuff and saw many good friends (and some new ones, too). But, I won't lie. It was a challenge for me the first few days because I'm so spoiled with my new found personal time. Oh, I need some more milk? I'll just run over to TJ's. Lunch with a girlfriend? When and where. Not so much with two energetic five year olds in tow. I was grateful for our bonding time and also happy to get back to my routine.

With the kids back in school, I spent my entire day on Tuesday cleaning, working, and chillin' at home. I watched a weeks worth of General Hospital and organized my jewelry. Why not since I had the rest of the week to get out and do stuff. So, what happens Wednesday morning? Quinn complains about his eye being "sticky" and I take one look and know right eye. You know, the dreaded red crusty highly contagious must have prescription drops pink eye. But, from what I gather, it's just one of those school aged things that's almost inevitable like lice, colds, and learning new curse words.

After dropping off Talia at school, we stopped by the grocery store for some chamomile tea bags (good for soothing the eyes) and rocky road ice cream, because you always need ice cream when you are home sick, like a big box of tissue and bad tv. Luckily I still had a full unused bottle of eye drops for this very thing left over from our urgent care visit early last month (the flu virus they had might make pink eye). I guess everything happens for a reason.

So, hunkered down with a binder full of kid movies to watch, puzzles, games, dance music, etc., we passed the next two days with surprising calm, fun, and humor. You just have to give in to this sort of stuff - can't fight it. Life is tricky that way - just when you think you are top of things, you get thrown a curve ball. I won't be so thrilled if I get the gooey red eyes because I much anticipated social plans for the next few days. But, ya, I know pink eye is nothing in the scheme of life, and maybe it's just a nice opportunity to not take life so seriously sometimes.
**above Quinn doing the twist to "You Never Can Tell" by Chuck Berry (think Pulp Fiction) and later his special guitar performance for his Star Wars figures ... I can't say these last two days were boring by any stretch

Monday, April 13, 2009

Embrace the mess

While I’m washing the endless pile of dirty dishes in my sink, I stare out the window at a huge Easter party going on across the street at the park. There are at least nine awnings over countless tables and tons of smiling people. The energy is happy and they are loud and playful. I wonder if it’s a family or a church group or what? Regardless, it’s lovely to see and I can’t help but be a bit envious.

My holiday was decidedly less social. My man worked and me and the kids went to my mom’s for breakfast and a short egg hunt outside. The menu wasn’t fancy, just some quiche, fruit, kugel, sausage, etc., oh, and some amazing blueberry lemon coffee cake that we made from scratch that morning. The kids loved their baskets (the Easter bunny goes to Grandma’s, too, you know). Quinn was particularly giddy about an R3 Golden Star Wars action figure and Talia was in her element working on a big puzzle on the island counter. It sure was nice to spend some quality time with my finally healthy mom after many weeks of her being sick.

Once we peeled away from the addictive puzzle and got back home we played, played, and then played some more. And, I came up with a new phrase. You know the riddle about the towel that the more it dries the wetter it becomes? Well, I’ve realized that the more I clean the messier it becomes. It’s still the usual mess, but the more I make each room a spotless organized masterpiece of clean, the more a stray sock or strewn toys totally bothers me. If the room was still a tornado of chaos, then a pile of dominoes or a parking lot of toy cars makes no difference at all.

It’s like my cat, Sydney. She used to stay close by like a supervisor while I cleaned her litter box, then the second I walked away, she dove in and did her business. Could I scold her for making the litter box dirty again? Actually, it was a bit of a running joke to see how long it took her. Should I never clean out the poop and pee because it would just get messy again? Of course not – having people over to the house without embarrassment is a nice thing. Like laundry and dishes, it’s never-ending and that’s life.

Just like my Easter holiday was completely mellow and quiet by choice instead of like the big party across the street, I have to look at the positive and what I have instead of what I don’t. Not only do I still have my mom around, but she lives near and we have a loving and close relationship. We are perfectly okay if it’s just us. Dishes in the sink mean we are well fed and that we enjoyed making that yummy coffee cake all together as a family. A full bounty of toys and stuff to organize and clothes to fold means we are well provided for in these tough times. Many many blessing for sure.

Now I’m not saying that discovering the tooth brush toothpaste art smear all over the bathroom mirror right after I spent thirty minutes cleaning the bathroom doesn’t make me want to breakdown and cry in defeat (how could they!!??!!). Like the expression, “never trust a skinny chef”, I’m realizing that a home without a constant mess means there isn’t enough fun and play going on and that would be a real shame indeed.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Beauty after the fires

Last Fall we witnessed several scary and devastating fires a few miles from our neighborhood. Many homes were lost and our beautiful hillside was blackened. In the direct path of destruction was my favorite local park called O’Melveny Park. It’s like an oasis from the city, full of beauty, quiet, and nature - a total treasure for local hikers and residents...and my family. The area just feels special to me, I can’t explain it.

Unfortunately, our worst fears were realized when we drove by a few days later after the fires were out and saw the vegetation around the entrance blackened, the wood archway entrance sign unrecognizable, and the park closed. Fond images of the cute jack rabbits, trapdoor spiders, glorious huge eucalyptus trees, bridges, grassy area were all destroyed in my mind. I was crushed and very sad.

A few days ago I got the courage to go back to O’Melveny to see for myself what was left and how bad the damage was. I was nervous and curious and felt compelled to go, but feared the worst. What greeted us just past the entrance was a single burnt orange tree amid a sea of fragrant orange blossoms blooming on the dozens of trees left untouched by fire. Further in we saw intact bridges over the flowing stream, green trees, grass – all these things were still there and unscathed. Of course we saw lots of burnt hillsides and trees, but overall I was smiling wide and breathing a sigh of relief everywhere we went. My beloved park was more than fine – it was totally thriving.

The most magnificent of all was one particular area that got completely charred but was covered in beautiful wildflowers. All you could see were the blackened remains of trees among countless blue and yellow flowers. It was almost unreal. The birds were chirping and the lizards were sunning and the ladybugs dotted the colorful landscape.

Now, I know it may sound a little weird to be so happy about this kind of stuff, but, well, it just touched my soul. To see first hand how nature bounces back is beyond humbling and surreal. All those months of feeling the loss of this place was instantly replaced with gratitude and awe. I’m grateful those firefighters did such a fine job saving this treasure and that I can share this appreciation with my children. I feel much much better now.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Homage to the pie

When you discover something that's spectacular perfection in every way, you are given a true gift. I feel this way about the banana cream pie from Apple Pan in West Los Angeles. My devotion has never wained after all these years of unwavering pie admiration.

The crust is exactly the way crust should be - flaky and thin. The custard is the perfect consistency with a simple not too sweet flavor. The bananas are ripe and you get at least one banana in each slice. The fresh whipped cream on top adds just the right balance. Every bite is divine and savored. Calories absolutely do not matter and never a thought for one second - it would be practically blasphemous to do so. After all, who cares when you are in pure food bliss?

I brought this pie to my Grandma Ruth on her last birthday. She was barely eating, managing to only drink Ensure. She ate two whole bites of this pie and with a huge smile declared it "delicious". When she died two days later, I remembered the happy smile on her face when she ate that pie and I will always cherish that last memory of her.

For the first time on Sunday, my own children got their first taste. They "ummmm'd" and "yumm'd" with every bite. The look on their faces as they devoured the pie was almost as good as eating it myself. Well, not really, that's a lie, but, you get the idea.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

To hear her hum

My daughter, Talia, has a charming habit of humming songs to herself. She will hum when she is doing something by herself, like helping set the dinner table or playing with her dolls. I don’t always notice it right away because it’s so lovely and pretty. When I do pay attention, I can almost always tell what song she is humming and hearing her can instantly brighten my mood.

The other day when I was under the influence of the predictable two-days-before- my-period-overly-emotional hormone spell, I was keeping busy in the kitchen (aka avoiding others so I wouldn’t lose it and say anything I would regret). I noticed Talia blissfully humming along while she colored her latest masterpiece. I literally stopped in my tracks and was taken back in time to when I was a child listening to my grandma Ruth hum in her kitchen. My grandmother was almost always merrily humming to herself. I would sing along with her in my head to songs from The Sound of Music, Oklahoma!, or The King and I. When I heard my grandma hum, I always thought it meant that she was happy and joyful. It’s one of the most endearing qualities I remember about her, besides her warm smile and fabulous sweet-and-sour cabbage rolls.

My grandma Ruth died peacefully in 2001. When my daughter was born a few years later, I honored my beloved grandma Ruth by giving Talia the middle name of Rose. My grandma loved roses and had an “R” name so it was the perfect choice. So, to hear my grandma’s namesake hum just like she did is not only touching but also a little surreal and eerie.

I asked my mom if I hummed as a child and she said “no” and she wasn’t a hummer either. I can’t help but think about the weird fact that Talia hums just like my grandma did, but I find it pleasantly comforting. I’m not saying I believe in reincarnation or anything, but it certainly makes me wonder. I wish I could go back in time and watch my grandma as a young girl. Did she hum then? Was her personality anything like Talia’s? Sadly, I’ll never know the answer to that. Instead, I’ll just have to appreciate the simplicity and beauty of Talia’s sweet melody and relish the fond memories all that humming stirs up in my mind. I miss my grandma Ruth deeply and I wish she had the chance to meet my children, but it’s more than apparent that her joyful spirit lives on inside us.

*The picture above is of my Grandma Ruth and me when I was around the same age that Talia is now.