Saturday, December 18, 2010

Hot tamales

Recently, we spent a bit of money on some much needed home repairs, ahem, I mean, contributed to the economic recovery (it just sounds so much better to think of it that way).  Not exactly what we wanted to do right before the holiday$$$, but felt it was important enough to spend the money now instead of letting it go any longer and end up spending more down the road.  Plus, there's an added bonus of peace of mind knowing that my house won't completely crumble and fall apart.  Well, it wasn't actually that bad, but it kind of felt like it.

Not only does our house look and function better, but I also got the added pleasure of meeting Robert, the Stucco Guy Extraordinaire.  This man is one of the nicest, most humble, most grateful, most proud of his craftsmanship, and genuine person I've ever met.  I'm not exaggerating when I say this.  You just don't see this sort of professionalism, worth ethic, and sincerity too often anymore.  How truly refreshing.

I didn't meet Robert right away.  My wonderful husband did all of the arrangements and interactions while I was down for the count in bed with an awful cold virus.  It wasn't until the second to last day that he was working at our home that met him.  I decided to bake some homemade chocolate chip cookies as a sort of 'thank you' to the hardworking crew, and also as an excuse to introduce myself.  I commented on his excellent work and then casually asked him how business was in the bad economy.  Turns out, this simple question is how I learned about his true character.

He told me that last year was very very bad and he was only saved by a home equity line of credit, so this year is relatively better in comparison.  He also said that eight out of ten people he knows in similar businesses did lose everything - their businesses, their big homes, cars, boats, time shares, fancy fancy etc., etc.  Why them and not him?  You see, he didn't upgrade to a huge (overpriced) house and buy expensive toys and overextend when times were good.  He kept his modest house and slowly fixed it up, one upgrade at a time (kept in line by a smart wife of thirty years making sure he finished every project he started).  He also did not cut costs by sacrificing his high standards and worth ethic, which helped him continue to get referrals and clients.

We talked for a while about our positive hopes for the economy and what's truly important in life, like family, friends, and gratitude and the more I talked to him the more I saw a true gem of a man.  He just gets it in the way that I wish more people did.  He believes that what goes around comes around, and when you put out good you get back good in return, so always do good.  Karma.  He doesn't need all of that material stuff to make him happy because he already has what he needs.  Oh man, did I just want to hug him and adopt him as an uncle so he'd stay in my life forever.

When his work is done, we say our good-bye's and thank you's and I feel lucky for knowing him.  I wish all my friends and family needed stucco work done, too, so we could give him tons and tons of business.  He more than deserves it.

The next morning at a 7am, I hear a knock at my front door.  My first thought it that it's a neighbor coming by to tell us something we didn't want to hear, like the time we heard "hi, do you know you have tons of bees flying out of a hole in your side wall?".  That was fun.  So, after hand-combing my wild curly bedhead, I cautiously open the door. Who do I see?  It's Robert, the Stucco Guy!  He says good-morning and apologizes for the early house call.  He proudly hands me a heavy and surprisingly warm large brown paper bag filled with a dozen just-cooked hot steamy tamales.  My caution evaporates into big happy smiles.

You see, one day my husband and Robert got to talking about tamales and the best places around Los Angeles to get authentic ones.  So, Robert figured he would get up extra early (when the tamales are best) and bring some to us from his favorite local place since he knows how much we like them.

Wow, right?

The delicious tamales were devoured quickly in our tamale loving home.  Yummy!  They were especially wonderful, not just because of the restaurant, but because they were brought to us with such care and kindness.  It's like Robert puts his whole self into everything he does, from the meticulous stucco work and clean-up, to openly discussing his sincere views on life, and sharing his favorite tamales.  I totally respect living life in that kind of authentic way, and I aspire to be more like that.  I think I do for the most part, but there's definitely room for improvement.  It's just such a rich and peaceful way to live.

This year was more than full of sad events, difficult challenges, and uncomfortable changes, both in my life and others I know, bringing plenty of bittersweet reminders of how fragile and hard life can be.  And that's why I soooooo appreciate having such a lovely and welcome moment and reminder of gratitude for a good reason from a really good guy.  This time, I didn't need a funeral or illness to remind of my blessings.  I got a chocolate chip cookie induced hot tamale happy give-give gift just because we both decided to do some good for each other.

I believe that people (who often seem like angels) come into our lives, even if it's for a brief time, to remind us of what is most important, and "Uncle" Robert is definitely one of them for me.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Happymiss naughty dogs

I laughed when I saw the story on tv about this dog that ate Gorilla glue...and it saved his life!  A happymiss story for sure:

http://www.nypost.com/p/entertainment/tv/ruff_diet_f2ETQNuyojpzLit4jAjtSP

And here I get mad at my cats when they eat the occasional houseplant.

Double fortune

I guess the universe has a lot to tell me.  I'm ready and listening!

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Hugs and kisses

When my twins were born, a dear friend of my grandma gave me this "Love is..." comic that she clipped out and slipped into a clear magnet frame.  The sweet sentimentality literally brought tears to my (sleep deprived new mommy) eyes.  This simple, yet beyond touching gift will always be on my fridge and remains as one of my favorite gifts ever.

You see, my grandma, Ruth, died two and a half years before I was blessed with my children.  She adored the long-running and beloved "Love is..." comic that dates back to the early 1970's.  So much so, that when the local newspaper stopped printing it, she organized a successful campaign to bring it back and...she won.  Thank goodness!  My grandma found such delight in the simply joyful moments like those depicted in the comic, and that's why I think she loved it so much.  Lucky for me, I remember lots of "Love is..." moments with my grandma and without a doubt her love plays an important role in who I am today.

Recently, when I helped organize a surprise class gift for my kid's teacher's upcoming wedding, I felt totally inspired to do a "Love is..." class project.  Not only will their teacher appreciate the student-made gift, but I'm also curious to find out what love means to these kids.  We teach them to say "I love you" when we say it to them, but do they really understand what it means in an abstract sense?  Humm...

One day while their almost-married teacher, Jullie, is conveniently out of the classroom, I pose the "Love is..." question to the students while we all discuss and listen to project instructions.  I will admit, I daydreamed about hearing some funny, heartfelt, maybe even embarrassing answers, like on Bill Cosby's Kids Say the Darndest Things , but surprisingly, what I get is pretty straightforward.   "Love is..." to these seven-year-olds means their pets, friends, family, chocolate, and their toys.  So, what was the #1 answer?  Hugs and kisses.
Yep, it was that simple and wow, totally refreshing.  Love is so much more complicated in the grown-up world.  Yet, hugs are kisses are the most simple form of showing love and affection.  We hug and kiss our pets, friends, family, toys (yes, I've hugged my Kitchenaid) and definitely chocolate (I've been known to gush over a box of See's Candies).  And those who grow up without much in the way of hugs and kisses often end up in a world of pain and dysfunction.  I would say they are pretty darn important.

Now, I'm not saying all we have to do is hug and kiss each other and all will be right in the universe.  But, like the "Love is..." comic, I believe it's the less obvious gestures that keep me wanting the hugs and kisses from the close relationships in my life.  For example, love is...last Saturday morning my man told me to stay in bed while he got up with the (6 a.m. early riser) kids because he knew I was drained after a few hard days taking care of my sick boy.  I fell back asleep until 8 a.m. and it felt glorious!   Love is...sitting next to my grandma Ruth on her organ bench while she played and we sang Sound of Music songs together.  Love is...going through my daughter's school backpack and finding a picture that she drew in class of me and "I love you mommy" in bright crayon letters.  Love is...when my mom calls to ask how I'm doing when it's my daughter who is sick.  I could go on and on 'cause I'm feeling rather mushy...or is it the beginnings of the nasty virus going around my house for the last month?  Urgh.

I'm all smiles when I think about the fact that my grandma Ruth enjoyed the 'Love is..." comic as much as she did, and that her caring friend remembered and gave me that gift, and that seeing it every day reminds me of her and how lucky I am to have my twins, and how it inspired me to do a wedding project with the class, and that their teacher was so touched that she said she'll display the poster at her wedding (to be enjoyed by her guests), and that all of those kind pay-it-forward gestures are appreciated and remembered as they live on and on every day.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

A lifetime to celebrate

In the past twelve months, I've gone to more memorial services than in my whole entire life.  Huh, what gives?  It has definitely not been the best year on record, to say the least.

Gone are the years in my twenties where everyone got married and weddings were a regular event.  The thirties?  Babies.  Babies.  And more babies.  Now that I'm almost, sigh, forty?  Divorces and death.  This is obviously one of those getting older awful secrets, like suddenly not tolerating dairy and sausage, gray eyebrow hair, and age spots that NO ONE WARNED ME ABOUT!  Or, I was just too young and perky-boobed to pay attention to the warnings?

Now, I'm certainly not saying that me attending all of these memorials even remotely compares to those that had to actually plan the service for their mother, father, husband, partner, or sister.  But, I just can't help but feel gloomy about it all because the life switch is so glaring.  I only wish I could go back to the days of shopping from bridal registries, bachelorette parties, and traveling out of town to witness happy nuptials (and making for great extended vacations while we were at it).  Wedding in New York?  Can you say side trip to Niagara Falls and Toronto?!  Good times for sure.

Oh, and all those girly baby showers and ogling the cute onesies and playing silly games...I miss that! Those were the glory days when everything was new and exciting and being experienced for the first time.

I can daydream all I want, but I can't go back to those times.  And, well, I'm not sure I would if I could.  I ultimately have to accept the fact that life is what it is...today.  Life now at almost forty feels so much more grownup and hard and way more sad, but a million times richer and rewarding.  With every loss of a loved one comes a greater appreciation for life and loved ones still with us.  With every divorce comes hope for growth, life lessons, healing, and a chance for new love.

It's also a good reminder that those major happy events that I yearn for don't always have to come in the form of a wedding or birth of a baby or a huge accomplishment.  The best things can be in the everyday happy life-changing moments in my life and in the lives of my friends and families, like my friend's husband getting a better job, a home-based business that's suddenly taking off, a wonderful new home, cancer going into remission, getting a lucky lottery slot at a great school at the last minute, a remarkable breakthrough in treating a son with autism, a back injury that's healing well after surgery (well on the way to 100% pain free!), birthdays, anniversaries, adopting a new rescue dog, quitting smoking, falling madly in love, and so on and so on and so on and so on...

I smile and cheer and relish all that great stuff.  When I add them all up, those sweet daily life moments far exceed the occasional sad memorial or divorce.  It really puts it all in perspective to write out a list like that.  And, here's hoping that some of that new love will mean more weddings (yay!) and more babies (awww!) and more reasons to get all dressed up and celebrate.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Sweet song

Last week it was a record 113!! unbearably hot miserable degrees here in Los Angeles.  Today is drizzly and cool and I love it.

As I walk my kids to class this morning, we collectively smile at the welcome change in weather, hug each other goodbye, then I walk out to my car to chit-chat with a good friend (and fellow mom at the school).  She shares her glorious plan to go home, nap (crawl back into bed), and allow some much needed "me" down time.  Amen, sister!  I feel happy for her, relating to my own requirement for that kind of time for myself and thrilled to see my friend do the same for herself.

Today, however, my ambitious vision of my day looks much busier than hers, like a stop at Target for some necessary stuff, TJ's for food and fruit, then home for cleaning my bathrooms, floors, and tackling some of the clutter leftover from a week of being home with sick kids and my (bored) need to organize my closets.  But, realizing I'm starving and I don't like shopping for food in that "dangerous" state, I head home for a quick bite to eat, with the intention of going right back out for errands.  Only, once I'm home I remember how much I despise grocery shopping in the rain (it's up there with oil changes and teeth cleanings) and realize a nice breakfast with a cup of hot green tea and a little bit of tv while I clean up might be more in order.

I scroll through my dvr looking for a recorded show I can leave on in the background while I'm cleaning, and decide to finally watch a Live from the Artist's Den that I recorded last March.  It features my absolute favorite singer/artist in the whole wide world, Patty Griffin.  Geez, I don't know why I saved it for so long.  Maybe the time never seemed right?  Maybe I worried it would be boring?  I've seen Patty live in concert four times for various album tours and she is an total pleasure and joy to watch.  And, damn if I don't cry every time I see her!  Heck, I don't even have to see her live; sometimes it's simply listening to one of her cd's (yep, I own all of them).  Her angelic voice singing her beautifully sad and moving songs from the heart and they just, well, they just touch my soul.

So, I'm "watching" Patty sing as I'm doing this and that, but find myself not doing anything else but staring at the tv as I'm enthralled with her amazingness, reliving past concert experiences, most of them with my mom, and how we both cried during different songs as they touched us in different ways, and I'm simply enjoying the moment and nothing else.  And then, like on queue, I start tearing up and crying as she performs one of her most haunting songs, "Sweet Lorraine".

Wow.  I guess I needed a good cry and I didn't even know it.

It was then that I realize why I haven't watched this recording for seven months.  I was waiting for today, on this quiet drizzly melancholic mellow first Monday of October day.  This is all I really needed to do today.

It makes me smile (and ya, sometimes cry) when life reveals exactly what I need when I need it.  Like when I'm at dinner with a friend who invited me and I realize how much I needed to get out and be social, or when my man rubs my surprisingly tight shoulders with a you-seem-really-stressed shoulder massage, or when I laugh so hard my eyes water as I hold my stomach and I realize it's been months since I laughed like that, I mean really laughed from deep down, and I feel much much better for doing it.  Yep, today was just like that.

"Most everything means nothing, except some things that mean everything."  - Patty Griffin

Friday, October 1, 2010

Ravioli vs reality

Last weekend I went out of town for four days.  FOUR glorious carefree days away from my everyday life.  I stayed in a rented beach house right across the street from the ocean.  Uh huh.  Oh ya.  Total bliss dipped in sunny goodness.

Of course I love my family and my life, but I desperately longed for a break from it all.  I was starting to see molecules in the air, my house felt about as big as my refrigerator, and I had visions of shaving off my daughter's hair because I couldn't handle another minute of her screaming like I was pulling out her fingernails before I even touched her rats nest hair with the brush!  Walls closing in, random crying alone in my bedroom, one centimeter left of patience, too many glasses bottles of wine, and a profound inability to feel any inspiration other than taking odd (but admittingly cute) pictures of the backyard squirrels were just a few clues that I needed a change of scenery.

So, me and three other longtime girlfriends (and previous traveling companions) escaped from our very different lives and convened just over three hours up north in a quaint little beach town.  Oh, but not before stopping for lunch at a wonderful restaurant I discovered a few years ago on another girlfriend weekend away for one of my favorite and BEST DISHES EVER CREATED ON THE PLANET.  A total masterpiece in every exquisite fresh and buttery bite. I dream and drool about this dish.  Even the waitress said she would eat this ravioli if she had to request her last meal.  Yep, it's that good.

With my getaway starting off with an unbelievable meal like this, it would be all downhill from there, right?  WRONG!  I had a great time.  I walked on the beach every day collecting shells and sand dollars while bird watching, touching strange spongy rocks covered with sea anemones and starfish, smiling, and washing away my worries with every breath of the cathartic ocean air.
We shopped and ate like tourists, played hilarious board games, drank coffee every morning on the balcony overlooking the ocean, munched on indulgent snacks and sweets that filled the counter and fridge (btw, calories don't count when you are on a girlfriend getaway), talked, laughed, laughed, laughed, watched movies, napped, read, explored neat rock covered beaches, danced, sang, and...let go.  Oh, and I found an old Santa (and my first Mrs. Claus) for my Santa collection at a really neat antique consignment shop that I could've spent hours at exploring all three floors. I didn't wash a single dirty dish (thanks Amy!), or cook a single meal (thanks yummy restaurants and snack foods, especially the chocolate dipped strawberries made by Terri!), or drive anyone anywhere (thanks Christy, our tour guide!).  Totally pampered.

I felt at peace, content, happy, relaxed, and reconnected with my friends and most importantly...with myself.  And above all, thankful for the opportunity, money to afford it, my good friends, and supportive family.
Then...I went home.

I came home to a sick son and having to take care of him while bracing for more sick members of the family.  On Thursday, my daughter barfed in the car, then spiked a fever, and also stayed home from school for two days.  There was a day or so in between fevers and barfing and rinsing noses, but the time feels totally lost and blurry.  With all this comes bickering cranky emotional kids, cooking three meals a day (I make a yummy chicken noodle, though), dirty dishes, bills, homework, being sneezed/barfed/cried/snotted on, etc., etc., etc., and the inevitable virus/cold/whatever-the-heck-it-is waiting to hit me any day now.  Hello reality!  Basically very little time to myself all week.  I'm exhausted from the loud reality of it all.

Can you say the total opposite from my pampered weekend at the beach?

Was my girlfriend getaway a total waste now that I'm home and dealing with all of this and feeling kind of sad and overwhelmed because it seems way more multiplied than normal after a weekend of such zen and fun?  Well, I can look at it a few different ways...

Cruel: Bwaahahahahahaha you dared to steal away to forget your responsibilities and obligations as a mother and wife!  You threw your little universe out of balance by having all that fun, so now you must pay and it's all your fault, you selfish you!

Guilt:  While you were away having all that fun without them, your family needed you and obviously suffered greatly in your absence.  You should be able to have fun at home and be grateful for what you have because your life is pretty good compared to many others suffering and in far worse situations than you.

Life: This is just how life goes.  You need this time away to replenish, rejuvenate, and get centered. To be YOU.  You are no good to your family if you remain depleted and resentful.  Your kids are totally affected by your state of mind, good or bad, and mental health is just as important as exercise and eating fiber.  Embrace the ups and downs of this roller-coaster ride that is called life.

Honestly, I know the real truth is that it's just life; it is what it is.  But those cruel and guilty feelings have a yucky way of creeping into my thoughts.  Lucky for me, I can simply accept that fact and swat that negativity away with happy memories of that magnificent ravioli dish, my hilarious girlfriends, and lots more good times during this and other getaways in my past (and hopefully in my future).  I am so glad I gift myself a true break away from it all once in a while.  After plenty of practice over the years, it's become an important part of who I am and helps me deal with the not-so-fun stuff a little bit better.  It's good to remind myself that it's worth the fallout when I'm feeling drained like I am at this very moment.  Absolutely positively worth it.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Would you like some sugar with your tea, R2?

Kitkat was invited to the picnic, but surprisingly, Hershey shows up instead.  He's got a major sweet tooth and a hankering for some delicious chai tea.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Going nuts, R2?


"Oh, why, yes, please join us.  Help yourself to some pecans, you friendly diurnal earth creature from the Sciuridae rodent family.  Isn't it a splendid day for an outdoor feast?"

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Wild melons

It's a tradition in our family to do a "Day Before School Starts" hike.  The idea is to step into nature, get out some pent up anxiety, get dirty, calm down, reflect, smile, and be together.  For two years now, it's been just that.  We hike at the same spot and then go home feeling centered and ready for the first school day.  Do you see that pretty blog banner of mine?  Yep, taken the day before kindergarten.  That picture means so much to me.  It was an emotional day in many many ways.

So, ya, today - it's the day before second grade and I totally (foolishly) want that special Hallmark moment.  The "aww soooo sweet" image as  a reminder that it's all worth it.  It's been thirteen summer break weeks of family bonding, fun in the sun, freedom, laziness, sleepovers, explorations, play, and togetherness.  I'm leaving out all of the other, umm, more challenging details.  Why?  Because, well, I have two seven-year-olds and I'm trying to keep it all in perspective.

Did I say two boisterous seven-year-olds full of waaaaaaay too much grrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr?!

What I get on today's hike is pushing, tongues sticking out at each other, running around in every which direction, straw throwing, stick poking - your basic discombobulated totally out of sorts anything but peaceful mischief.  I can't get them to touch each other in a nice and decent way to save my life.  Are these really my children?

Literally, different directions, same hike...
He's about to do something annoying...

 Straw fight...
Am I irritated because I want to recreate this fantastic sweet emotional shot just like two years ago that would make for a beautiful memory, only to have them mock the very thought?  I am, but, they are obviously having fun and being free and letting go and being who they are at this very moment.  It may not be the way I want them to be, but, well, ultimately, so what?!  They could care less if I get my perfect picture for my blog post.  And, once I let go (give up in total exasperation) of that silly expectation, I notice so many other neat things all around us.

Check out this wild squash or watermelon (???) plant growing along the hiking path...
Or the green stuff along the creek...
These flowers were in different stages of bloom and color and drying out all around us...
Our favorite owl nest under the bridge is still there...can you see it way up there?
And this tree full of these cherry-like looking berries - what in the heck is it?
 
When no one was around, we even have a let's scream and let out all of our pent up grrrrrr feelings (for them it's the first day of school anxiety, for me it's omg I love my children but thank goodness I survived the very long summer hallelujah school is tomorrow and I get my "me" time back) moment just like in the movie Garden State (just substitute me and two very seven-year-old crazy kids leaning and screaming over the creek).  Yes, I scream, too, and it feels damn good let me tell you...
When all is said (and screamed) and done, I love our traditional hike at our favorite local hiking spot.  Maybe the lesson is that every year the hike will be different, just like my ever-changing children, and that's truly something to look forward to and relish and embrace.  They are growing up so fast!

Thankfully, I finally get a simi-decent shot of them actually calmly walking together.  No poking.  No teasing.  No running.  No grrrrrr.  It's simply my two wonderful children, obviously more separate than ever now, being their individual sweet sibling selves, just talking together side-by-side, ready to start a new school year together while blazing their own important trails.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Happymiss radio

I got my first driver's license on the morning of my 16th birthday by rockin' 100% scores on both the driving and written tests.  With the biggest smile ever, I proudly drove my red used 1981 Dodge Colt hatchback to school right after I was handed my temporary license.  Thinking back, I probably left my stunned and emotional mom in the dust after I peeled out of the DMV parking lot without even looking back or waving goodbye.  Freeeeedom!

Even though other kids at school got new BMW's, Fiero's, Integra's and Suzuki's with stereo systems that cost more than my car for their birthdays, I was totally grateful that my mom bought me my little red Colt.  Plenty of friends I knew would only dream about getting a car in high school.  This car meant new found independence, no longer taking the bus or walking to/from school, driving to my favorite beach (the hatchback was perfect for beach chairs), driving wherever I wanted, learning how to drive a stick shift, and well, you know, I was beyond happy.

Sure, I wanted to be able to park in the Hey! My Rich Parents Bought Me A Brand New Car parking lot instead of the Mom's Hand Me Down I Have to Work Nights To Pay For Gas Don't Mind The Minor Dents alternative lot.  But, those rich kids with their new fancy cars didn't appreciate how lucky they were and raced around and crashed those flashy shiny cars and got more dents and scratches than celebrity diva drunk drivers.  No thank you.

I will admit, though, the one disadvantage of my car was that it only had AM radio.  I could barely afford gas, so I certainly couldn't buy a new car stereo.  So, I listened to the only station I sort of liked that wasn't talk radio...oldies.  Oldies meaning the 1950's and 1960's.  These decades were absolutely foreign to me, as I grew up listening to 1970's folk music (think James Taylor and Joni Mitchell).  Suddenly I'm exposed to Buddy Holly, Temptations, Aretha Franklin, Sam Cooke, Beatles, Elvis, Righteous Brothers, Supremes, and the Beach Boys.  This was not exactly what I had in mind as a sixteen-year-old who was just handed the keys to independence.  

At first I was rather annoyed (after all, I was a teenager), but once I started listening, really listening, I became more and more familiar with the songs and artists.  I (gasp!) actually started singing along and discovering my favorites.  I'd hear myself exclaiming "ooooh, I love this song!" and be-bopping around as I drove.  Then, I noticed the oldie songs would be in movie soundtracks, diner jukeboxes, and be remade by current artists.  I recognized them!  I had a new appreciation for the talented and innovative artists, catchy tunes, and groundbreaking sounds.  I was won over.

As soon as I could afford it, many many months later, I finally bought a new detachable face car stereo...with FM radio and everything!  Amid my excitement as I watched my shiny new stereo being installed, I had a brief moment of "aw, bye bye my sweet happymiss AM radio, you were good to me"...but then...then the stereo cranked out a U2 song and there were tears...tears of sweet modern music joy!


**yes, that's me around the age I got the FM stereo (I was too busy driving my car to take any decent pictures of it so this is the best I can do)

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Cool art

After a spectacularly mild summer, it's finally hot hot hot just as expected for August.  At 105 degrees and no ocean breeze, it's yucky.  Me no likey going outsidey in this heaty.

Today, I'm not into embracing the heat and going to a local fun water park (with all the other billions of people) or the ocean (long hot car ride with very boisterous children who desperately need to get back to school).  Everything takes effort, I'm feeling lazy, and my name recall memory is totally shot and functioning on a five minute delay.  Who's that on that new show The C Word, wait, wrong show, is it The Big C?  Yes! That's it.  And, the actress.  You know, the one in that wonderful movie with her screwed up brother played by that cute guy.  I love her.  She's one of my favorites.  Wait...ummmmm...

Five minutes later, while discussing with my husband how we need to get the house professionally bug sprayed because we keep finding eight inch long cockroaches having parties in our kitchen at night, I shout "Laura Linney!!!!!" and feel much much better.  Continuing on...

Our home has great air conditioning, a fully stocked fridge, a gazillion movies, Wii, a playroom loaded with stuff to do, and the internet.  Forget being social and adventurous and taking full advantage of the summertime outdoors during our dwindling few days of freedom before school starts - I'm simply not in the mood.  I am officially experiencing summer burnout.

So, after watching a movie, playing plenty of Wii, constructing a complicated marble run, playing with the very cool marble run, too much time on the internet, calling friends, cooking, snacking, cooking, snacking, building a Star Wars space flying thingy (give me five minutes, please), and a ten minute dance boogie, my daughter requests that we do an art project from her new art book
We settle on the section based on Kandinsky.  He painted and theorized with color and the abstract, with color often relating to feelings and music.  His famous painting of circles gives me that "I could paint that" feel, but it definitely grows on me once I realize how much thought and theory went into his work.

We fold the paper, then draw the circles with crayons, and paint over them with watercolors.  Here is mine which I name "Mellow Moments".
 Quinn names his "Grumpy Balls".
Talia picks "Rolling Changing Seasons" as her title:
 
What strikes me most is the serendipity of this particular artist and painting, and how it applies to our day.  His "Color Study of Squares" came out of his major fascination with color.  It obviously isn't about painting the perfect circles with the expected mix of perfect colors.  It is just about experimenting with art, pushing the status quo, seeing objects in a new way, and being original.  I always admire that. 

As we do the project, my kids struggle a bit with the folding and the circles and using color that they thought was one thing (red) but turned out to be another (pink).  They are so much like me in wanting to get things perfectly right the first time, or else!   But, in the end, they are smiling, talking with enthusiasm, and proud.  They learn that there are no "mistakes" in art, you make it your own, and sometimes it's just about the simple act of just doing art and expressing yourself.

So, even though I initially felt a twinge of regret that I didn't wear my supermom cape today by not taking my kids out for some fantastic summertime adventure like everyone else was probably doing (ha ha ha), I did just fine.  Like my kids getting frustrated with the circles and colors and perfectionism, I, too, need many more lessons in dealing with expectations, even though I've gotten much better in recent years.  Let go.  Express yourself.  Relax.  Have fun.  Relish the moment with joy. Maybe tomorrow we will be more adventurous.  Maybe not.  What's the weather going to be?  110?!  Uh, ummm, doing more art from Talia's art book in our air conditioned house sounds like a perfectly fine plan.  Me likey.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Happymiss bread

Once in a while, I like to make my own bread, sometimes by hand but usually in the easy bread machine.  There is something just so comforting and joyous about smelling the bread baking and then eating the yummy fresh homemade goodness. Cinnamon raisin bread is one of my bread machine favorites.  It makes for great cream cheese and jelly sandwiches, also good with peanut butter and bananas, or better yet, fantastic french toast.  Delish!

Today I was in a bread making kind of mood, so I threw the ingredients in the bread machine per the recipe and three hours later the bread was done and...ummm...well, it turned out kind of funny looking.  It was sunken in the middle and the texture was just weird.  I am not sure what happened, only that I screwed up something.  What a damn waste.  Darnit!  And, of course because I'm feeling particularly tired for whatever reason (lack of gym? too many chocolate chip oatmeal cookies? end-of-summer-looking-forward-to-school-starting-soon exhaustion? life?), I feel a wave of negativity and internally criticize my baking abilities and unfairly get a bit down on myself.  Humph.

I take my bad baking mojo out on my bathroom - cleaning, scrubbing, wiping, disinfecting, and distracting.  Then, while scrubbing the toilet, it hits me.  No, not the foul smell of my cute boy's missed toilet pee.  Instead of just discarding the failure that was my cinnamon raisin bread, I can make a dessert bread pudding.  Ding!  Ding!  Ding!  My mom is coming over for dinner in a few hours and she always says she doesn't eat dessert (wink wink) but she always loves my dessert and never refuses and I haven't baked anything yet for tonight.  Perfect!

So, I put down the scrubber, dance over to the kitchen and get to work.  I cube up the bread and put it all in a baking dish.  Then I mix up some eggs, milk, brown sugar, butter, cinnamon, nutmeg, vanilla, raisins, diced apples, walnuts, and pour it all over the bread.  I let it all soak in a bit, then bake it for around forty minutes until set.  After dinner, I serve it sprinkled with a little maple syrup and a scoop of vanilla ice cream.
Let me tell you, my raisin bread pudding was most excellent.  I loved it and so did my family as they gobbled it up (especially my mom, of course).  How neat is that to take a failed loaf of homemade bread and turn it into a delicious dessert?!  I'd like to claim that I planned it all along (because, ya, it was that good), but I feel even better enjoying my unexpected happymiss moment.

*happymiss is an ongoing project of mine and you can check out the first post here

Monday, August 9, 2010

Delivering good times

In a perfect moment of synchronicity, a week before my girlfriend weekend away in Big Bear that was planned months ago, the fine folks over at Vons offer me some nice gift cards to experience and blog about their home delivery service.  Wow, right!?!  So, it's a no brainer for me to propose that I plan the menu and purchase all of the food and drink for our much needed getaway.  My two traveling companions cheer a big "yes!!" without a moment of hesitation.

This makes me beyond happy for the following reasons: I find comfort in planning and organizing, I am good at it, I love to cook (especially when I can spoil my deserving and thankful girlfriends), I feel like I'm contributing in an important way, and we will all enjoy delicious and indulgent meals that we don't usually cook for ourselves at home (no fish sticks or tater tots on this trip!).       

So, here it is, the simple but most excellent Girlfriend Weekend Way Menu:
  • Friday dinner/dessert - T-bone steak with sauteed red onions and garlic, smashed red potatoes, salad (mixed greens, cucumber, homegrown tomatoes, avocado), bakery fresh soft French bread, wine, sparkling water, and assorted chocolates
  • Saturday breakfast - scrambled steak and eggs (leftover steak from dinner), toast, jam, fresh fruit, coffee, and juice
  • Saturday lunch - touristy shopping and lunch in town
  • Saturday dinner/dessert - salmon fillet steamed in parchment paper ("salmon en papillote" because I'm so fancy like that), roasted rosemary red potatoes, sauteed broccoli, more French bread with butter, wine, and of course more chocolate
  • Sunday breakfast - see Saturday breakfast minus the steak 
  • Sunday lunch (sniffle...our last meal at the cabin) - mixed green salad with leftover salmon, cucumber, homegrown tomatoes, avocado, feta cheese, and the last bit of French bread...and more chocolate because it's a girlfriend weekend away with no children around, for goodness sake!
Two days before we leave, and with my shopping list in hand, it's time to place my online order.  Setting up my account is a breeze and so is shopping either by a search or by aisle.  I easily find everything on my list plus extra snacks and drinks, including lots of organic options and most importantly, plenty of dark chocolate and milk chocolate varieties (scoring myself some major bonus points with the ladies).  I even get $7 off my first order plus free delivery from my special Vons promotional code "SMLLSTFF", and you can all use my special code, too.

The morning of my getaway, as the friendly delivery guy hands me my bags of groceries, my main thought is "Why didn't I do this when I was exhausted and struggling with newborn twin babies with the darkest and scariest circles under my eyes and zero energy to go out in public and grocery shop?!"  I'm not so horribly sleep deprived anymore, but instead I'm busy entertaining my energetic and demanding emotional seven year olds in the home stretch of a considerably long twelve week summer break with a glaring lack of time to myself and the last thing I want to do with my precious "me" time is run errands when I would rather go to yoga or shop for a cute new purse or hunt for thrift store treasures!

I am grateful and fortunate to be at home with my wonderful and precious children, but, well, can you tell I desperately need a weekend away with the girlfriends?!?

And that we did.  The three of us stayed at one of the lady's neat rustic cabin, where we feasted on fantastic food (if I say so myself), good fortune and synchronicity, interesting books and magazines, great conversation, CHOCOLATE, a picturesque walk around the lake, fun shopping, lack of responsibility to anyone but ourselves, movies, neat wildlife viewings (bats!), facials, laughter, relaxation, and just the fact that we were away...together...as friends...as women...as ourselves.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Legos and corn dogs

My daughter Talia got whisked away this morning by one of her favorite bff friends from school for a day filled with hiking, lunch, swimming, and almost certainly lots and lots of giggles.  Can you say squeals of happy happy joy joy from my super social girl who loves her silly and sweet friend sooooo much?! 

Me?  I am glad for her.  The hardest part about summer is missing her school friends and I don't blame her.  If I had to go three months without seeing my girlfriends I'd wallow in misery and depressed emptiness.  I need my ladies!  And, it just so happens to be one of those fantastic lady friends that is graciously entertaining my daughter today.  I can't wait to hear how it went since it's a totally new thing for her to have such long a day without her twin brother.

It's weird.  My precious twin babies are venturing out into the great big world without each other.  I know it's healthy and good for them, but, well, it's new for me and I'm just a mixed bag of emotions over all of this.  Next thing I know, I'll be helping them submit their college applications.  I'm not ready for that yet!

Is her brother Quinn jealous?  Sad?  Lonely?  Mad that she gets to play while he's stuck alone with his mom?  Ha ha ha!  Uh no.  He's relishing the break from all that is his sister.  He's all smiles and relaxed and talking.  A lot.  Granted, it's mostly about Star Wars trivia and the scientific realities of the universe but I'll take it.  I absolutely love to hear what he's thinking without interruption and how his amazing mind works.
Did we spend our day kicking the soccer ball around?  Studying dinosaurs at the Natural History Museum?  Geocaching in our local mountains (although it's sounds really neat)?  Nope.  We hit the far away mall to specifically visit the very cool Lego store (for the first time ever!) and eat some lunch.  Not exactly creative, educational, or deep, but for a big Lego fan and an even bigger Star Wars fan with a wallet full of birthday money begging to be spent, it's a pretty great combination.
And for lunch?  Corn dogs and lemonade.  I forgot how good those are and how much I enjoyed such a special treat when I was a kid.  In fact, sadly, I don't ever eat those now because the chemicals do very bad things to my digestion (I believe it's one of those almost forty things that no one told me about).  But, today I "splurged" because I wanted to fully experience the day with him, and, well, those corn dogs are really yummy.  So, yes, we bonded over corn dogs and I don't care if it comes back to haunt me later because it was worth it.  Just look at that smile on his happy face.  And, ya, I was smiling right back at him.

Update:
My usually smiling Talia came home a little while ago with a rather serious expression on her face as she greeted me, not with a 'hi mom!', but with a cautious proclamation: "I would like to get my ears pierced".

You see, her bff friend that she spent the day with just got her ears pierced, so, well, uh, and she is very seven.  I answered her with a "We'll talk about it", to which she was not all that happy with at all.  She obviously wanted a "Sure honey, let's go get your ears pierced first thing tomorrow yay!!!" and did not appreciate my lack of commitment.  I told her it's not something we jump into just because her friend did.  It's a big decision to think about.  PERMANENT.  However, she hasn't stopped seriously talking about it with a slight tear in her eye since she's been home (or is the chlorine from the public swimming pool?).  Did I mention she is very seven?!  Is this only the beginning of what to expect from all this new independence?  Oh my.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

As fun as cake

I am one post away from the Big 200th Post.  If you are a television show and talking 'episodes', you present a big celebratory cake for the cast and crew, toast champagne, and applaud the major accomplishment. If you are me, you do a review of all of the keywords people used in their online searches that brought them to my blog. Here are my top 25 favorites: 
  1. big wiggly things
  2. butt squished
  3. squished under her butt
  4. squished under my butt
  5. dare to be brave
  6. i know myself but that is all
  7. a boo about a father talks about sons and how he missed out on the small stuff
  8. joan cusack's teeth
  9. braces extremely near sighted
  10. breakfast television packing tips
  11. how munch supplies is needed to build a small home
  12. christmas story that's right, oink oink. show us how the piggies eat
  13. poo head and other names
  14. eaglets feces sticky
  15. it’s kinda funny do you know? love’s an odd thing to feel, the best and the worst i’ve ever known. and it doesn’t make compromises at all. it’s not fair at all, that i have to crave for you and that even the smallest smile drives me insane
  16. indan small boy looking to her anty in bathroom taking the shwer
  17. don't sweat the small stuff and it's all small stuff pink monkey
  18. party like the irish
  19. husband power washer fetal position
  20. squealing lizard
  21. freeeeeedom!!!!!!!!! im single again!!!!
  22. the misery of small boobs
  23. vintage small boobs
  24. how did r2r2 help c3po?
  25. damn piles

Thursday, July 22, 2010

A dig into my past

The other day, I was having lunch with my kids and they were talking about school (they miss it), and I wondered how I was as a student when I was my kid's age.  When I reminisce about the early years of school, my academics aren't first on my mind, instead it's mostly about my friends, the teachers, the fun stuff.  Do I remember how I did in French class?  Not at all.  Language arts?  Umm, nope.  

I dig out my old school reports, which turn out to be a revealing window into my past, full of happy surprises, shock, and questions.  See, my beloved Waldorf school didn't give grades, instead, I got an annual hand-typed report listing every subject and how I did according to the teacher.  

This is the first sentence I read from my first grade report:  "Daria's exemplary behavior, sensitive nature, and diligence made her a great asset to our class."  

Oh yay, this is going to be so much fun!  Aaah, but of course I was a wonderful student that all of my teachers loved! 

I read on that in first grade I was "a good listener" (language arts), "has a rich imagination and an ability to express it" (drawing), "pleasure to watch Daria work" (woodcraft), "participated fully" (French), and many other most excellent remarks.

Only once did I feel a little concerned, but then kind of relieved when I read this: "What at first seemed like shyness is in reality an inner strength which already at this tender age can discriminate against participation or can enforce it, for I found out that Daria has 'a mind of her own'."

A "mind of my own", huh?  That's good, right?  Or was my teacher just forcing the words to sound nice?  I clearly remember that if I didn't like something or the teacher, I would protest, not in a tantrum snotty way, but sort of manner of fact.  Stubborn?  Not!  My young mind of my own had very discerning taste and stayed true to myself, that's all!

Moving on...

Second grade, here we go with the first paragraph:  "...This year, however, one felt, that the opposite of this confidence and at-oneness with the world was also experienced by Daria - much too soon.  A conscious setting one's self apart, a shutting one's self in, and 'I don't care' attitude - all these were painful to behold, for they do not properly belong to this young age.  I suspect a deep lying sadness in Daria, which even at times would surface in a show of attempted cynicism."  

Wow.  How sad.  What in the world was going on with me then?  I'm really not sure.  What is also hard is that I recognize myself in this young child - the setting myself apart (feeling like an outsider), the shutting in (putting up walls and cocooning), being rather cynical (just ask my husband), and sometimes the unexplained sadness and lack of joy. Have I always been this way?

Sure, the rest of the yearly reports produce wonderful insightful remarks which I relish (I had no idea I was so good at math?!), but the negative words mostly during second and third grade stand out like a sore thumb: "talks back in a disrespectful way", "easily frustrated and discouraged", "shows disagreement to almost everything asked of her in Eurythmy", "talks a great deal out of turn", and many more comments that are pretty harsh, even to the point of making my jaw drop in dismay. Ouch.

In all fairness to myself, many of the teachers were old school Waldorf to the extreme who lived 100% under the philosophy that embraced the whole individual, well, as long as they didn't challenge the traditional Steiner methods or beliefs.  Honestly, I thought the scowling Fraulein German teachers were mostly cold and mean. Eurythmy made me giggle because, well, it was weird and way too serious.  Sports was lame - the revolving door coaches never really taught us how to get better, so what was the point?  I had a hard time not expressing my disapproval.

Luckily, I came around and did much better in fourth and fifth grades.  Are my kids anything like how I was described as a child?  Academically, I see plenty of resemblances.  Many of the subjects that they excel in are the same that I loved, too.  I also see a lot of my kid's traits in the positive comments, but not so much in the negative.

What's loud and clear to me, is that my life was vastly different from theirs at that age.  When I was seven, I was profoundly affected by the divorce of my parents, I moved several times, I longed for the elusive affection and attention from my father, no siblings to take out my aggression on, and I was forced to grow up much too quickly.  These life experiences shaped who I was...and who I am today.  There's no blame here (please don't cry mom!), just the honest facts.  After all, I think I turned out okay, for the most part anyway.  I grew up striving for a different life for my kids, just like my mom did for me, and I see so many qualities in my children that I was missing in my youth, like loads of joy and confidence.

Speaking of my sweet kids, they listened intently as a read the best excerpts (both good and bad) from my school reports to my husband.  They just love hearing stories from when I was a kid, and I like them to hear that I wasn't perfect.  About an hour later, I ask them to get on their shoes for a walk to the library.  Talia struts out of her room announcing out loud "I am Talia and I have a mind of my own and I will wear two different socks if I want to".  I couldn't help but giggle.  It is obvious she wants to be just like her mommy.  I'm thinking she deserves an "Excellent" mark for her adorable cuteness.  

Monday, July 19, 2010

Glasses

"Excuse me, but I seem to have misplaced my glasses.  Did you happen to see them anywhere?"

Monday, July 5, 2010

Happymiss school

When it came time to picking a kindergarten for my children, only a single school came to mind: my dream of all dreams was for them to attend the beloved private Waldorf school of my childhood.  Just a few miles away from our home resides the beautiful hilltop campus, full of all that is Waldorf - creativity, nature, nurturing, music, art, wholesomeness, and an abundance of warm fuzzy memories.  I want my sweet deserving children to foster similar memories and experiences, so I put on my rose-colored blinders and dream really big, figuring there must be a way to make the out-of-our-league price-tag for tuition more reasonable and affordable.  I am determined, darnit!

Of course I realize the school is no longer the easy going hippy-crunchy school from the 1970's that generously allowed children of teachers to attend for free (that's how I got to go).  Despite receiving free tuition, I fit in well with children from wealthy families, famous celebrity families, and ultra-hippy families.  That's just how it was then (money didn't matter) and I am lucky for such a gift.  

Now, the school is mostly run by boards and committees and accountants.  But with the basic values still intact, they'd be thrilled at the prospect of a family like ours - an alumni family of a well respected teacher that gets and loves Waldorf.  Right?  They'd bend over backwards to offer financial help so we can afford the huge tuition.  Right?  Good karma, right?  Please pretty please!?

So, ya, umm, that doesn't happen.

Not even close.

And, I sobb.  I boo-hoo tears of utter disappointment of squashed dreams and deep sadness.  I cry and cry and cry and cry and cry.  I am depressed for days.  Totally crushed.  I can barely talk about it without getting emotional.  I am a mess.

Eventually, I pick myself up, shake off the upsetting and humbling experience, and get a grip.  I visit and apply to another much smaller (and when I say "much smaller" I'm not kidding) and newer private Waldorf school more within my relative price range.  Honestly, I'm not all together thrilled (scared to death!) about scraping together every last dollar to pay the tuition and I also notice lots of red flags with the school, but I look the other way, convinced this familiar and comfortable Waldorf education is the best for our family. 

Out of the blue, I remember somewhere in the cobwebs of my almost-forty mind, that about a year or so ago, my mom sent me the link to a website of a public (and free!!) charter school near my house.  I pull up the website.  Humm.  I drive by the school a few times.  Humm.  I take the tour.  Humm.  It's alright for a public school, nice and small, but it's not pretty Waldorfy yummy fairy goodness.  I decide what the heck and apply anyway, knowing full well about the lottery system for the few coveted slots, but happy at least it's an option...what the heck...just in case.

The lottery happens in April, and...we don't get a slot.  Damn.

The summer rolls around and with some (well, many) reservations, we make plans to attend the second choice Waldorf school, reluctantly resolved to make the best of it.

Then I get the phone call that changes everything:  we got two lottery slots at the public charter school due to an additional kindergarten class that was added.  OMG!   No way!  Wow.  We are given one day to decide to accept or not.

This is a difficult decision, after all, we already made up our minds to attend the private school, and now there is another option thrown in the mix.  Hummmmmmmm...

In the end, we realize that these lottery slots will most likely never come up again - once we give up the slots there is no going back. However, we can basically attend the private school at any time.  We decide...to take a huge leap of faith and give the charter school a try.

I have never regretted our decision.  Ever.  Our school is wonderful.  It's like the best of both worlds - free public education with the freedom to teach a progressive whole-child approach integrating art, music, democracy, and a wonderful diversity of students.  I feel like we belong there with our peers, and now many good friends- like a sort of cosmic destiny.
Thank goodness my beloved childhood school of choice didn't offer us much in the way of tuition assistance, making my big dream impossible to afford.  Besides the huge amount of money we saved (I calculated we saved over $265,000 for kindergarten through 8th grade tuition!!!), I can see now that it wasn't best for our family in many many many ways.  Who would've ever guessed I'd go from a sobbing heartbroken mess about losing out on my dream school, to happily thinking that if I was offered two full scholarships from the Waldorf school today, I would turn them down in favor of our little beloved charter school.  This fall, we will be entering our third year at the school, and...I'm still smiling.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Lady's night

What's a lady to do on a Saturday night when her children are sleeping over at gramma's house, her sweet husband is out hanging with a friend, and she is blessed with a glorious solo evening of welcomed peace and quiet after a busy and emotional week of struggling to keep the energetic kids entertained and happy while balancing her own personal sanity during the third week of summer break?  Why, take-out yummy spicy sushi rolls from her favorite local sushi restaurant, a tall glass of red wine, and a chick flick in her comfiest jammies, of course!

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Hamburgerock

My son, Quinn, found this "rock" last time we visited our local beach.  Obviously it's not a natural rock.  My best guess is that it's two bricks with concrete in the middle that tumbled in the ocean for who knows how long, forming this neat and unusual shape.

As far as my kids are concerned, it's a hamburger rock and...it's really really cool.

I think it's special, too, but I can't help but wonder and daydream about where this came from originally.  Was it from a brick wall or walkway somewhere far far away that crumbled into the ocean during a horrible storm?  What kind of amazing story would this hamburgerock tell if it could?  How lucky we are to be the first ones to find and touch such a treasure! 

People line up to buy fancy newfangled gadgets when they hit the stores; items that excite and wow making our lives "easier" and more fun (I always smile at the "flame" app held up during the slow song at concerts - Bic lighters always did get hot after a while).  I am sadly and admittedly way behind the times.  I can't even (gasp!) check email and facebook on my phone!  Ya ya, I know, hang my head low in embarrassment.  But, how many people can say they have a hamburgerock like mine?  Anyone?  Anyone?

Friday, June 25, 2010

Star Mom

I love me a local library used book sale.  I especially love a library used book sale when I walk up thinking about what I want to get, like "find Star Wars book, Star Wars book, Star Wars book..." and I hit the epic jackpot.  Oh ya baby, an original 1980 copyrighted The Empire Strikes Back Storybook with "full-color photographs" obviously well loved by it's previous owner.  Cha ching!  Score one for mommy!  

I don't know how much it cost, because I fought through the hoards of book fans, ebay sellers, strange characters, fellow moms, and teachers and bought a big bag full of various kid books for a mere $5.  It's priceless to my son, the 2nd biggest Star Wars fan (next my husband), who gasped and let out a smile inducing "oooohhh!" when he held the treasured book in his excited hands.  He doesn't care that it needs a bit of tlc and tape - he just thinks he's the luckiest kid ever.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Crying over spilt cereal

Not to butter my own toast, but I can cook up a great morning meal.  Oh ya, I totally rock the breakfast menu.  Helped by two early birds who wake up about 6am EVERY SINGLE DAY regardless of what time they go to bed, I find myself with plenty of time in the morning to make a variety of good warm home-cooked stuff,  I even wrote my first blog post about my fabulous Friday pancakes.
 
Honestly, I enjoy cooking a nice breakfast for my kids and it's important to me (and their growing bodies) to start their day with healthy satisfying meals, full of variety and flavor.  It's not about being a bragging Super Mom that's trying to be better than anyone or get bonus points.  It's more about being proud that I am able to provide what I didn't necessarily have growing up being raised by a single mom who did the best that she could.  

But then there are those mornings.  

I'm talking about those occasional mornings about once a week (gasp!!) when I don't want to cook or be creative or do anything for anybody that's more than the bare minimum.  Believe it or not, I get tired and burnt out and cranky and I just don't have it in me.  Or, I simply don't feel like it.  After all, I'm certainly entitled.

So, on those days, I put two bowls, milk, and a banana on the table and inform my young customers that it's a cereal fend-for-yourself kind of breakfast morning - thank you very much for coming and have a have nice day.  My excited daughter runs to the cereal cabinet so she can get there first, choosing her favorite from a variety of different cereals, shakes out the correct nutritional portion into her bowl, pours the perfect amount of milk, gets her own spoon and napkin, and starts eating with smiling pride that she's such a capable independent big kid that can do it all herself. 

My son, on the other hand, throws a humongous tantrum full of tears and how can you do this to me and "now my whole day is ruined!!!!" guilt trips like I've just served him his beloved puppy in a bowl.  And, every time he does this for the last few months now, we go through the same banter back and forth with me saying this is what he's getting today, and he says he hates cereal because it's too cold, and then I say that he needs to be more grateful and just eat it, and comes back with more pathetic tears, until eventually he gives in and eats the cereal under protest.  There is no glorious victory here.  It sucks.

Yesterday's cereal tantrum was the last straw.  I mean it was soooo off the charts ridiculous.  It took all my will not to yell back at him "What?!  Seriously?!  You ungrateful spoiled rotten !@#$*! how dare you give me so much sh#!@ over this g#*^%! cereal you have no idea how good you have it!!!!".   Of course I didn't say that, but it was so damn tempting!  When it comes down to it, it's not about being a martyr or doormat mom - it's about feeling under appreciated, taken for granted, and frustrated.  So, instead of causing an even bigger scene, I keep my feelings to myself, fester about it all day, and eventually (after two glasses of wine and four cookies) craft my genius master plan - Operation Cereal Busters.

So the next morning, while he is happily eating his banana blueberry chocolate chip walnut Friday pancakes, I sit down and look at him in the eyes and say we need to discuss the issue of The Cereal.  I calmly explain there will be no more tantrums over cereal and it is no longer acceptable to act the way he does.  Ever.  I go on to say that while I love cooking for them because I'm so good at it and modest (just kidding!), but sometimes I just need a break.  Besides, cereal is not a bad thing at all.  Most people love cereal and up until a few months ago he did, too.  And, does he know that most days growing up, I had to make my own breakfast and it was almost always cereal and sometimes there was no milk and I had to eat it dry or use orange juice or apple juice and I would've never ever thrown the kind of fit that he does because I was grateful for what I got because I knew there wasn't much money and if I got anything else other than cereal it was a special treat?  And if he ever gets mad over cereal again, then he will have it the next day, and the next day, and the next day after that until he gets a grip.

And you know what?  He took me seriously.  I'm pretty sure he got it.  He promised to change his behavior in the future.  As a bonus, he was an extra happy kid the rest of the day.  I honestly don't expect another cereal tantrum again.  So ya, I realize that I pulled a story from my childhood, much like the typical "I used to walk ten miles to school up a hill in the rain/sleet/snow" story with the intention of being humbling.  But, in my mind, I appealed to him as a human being with feelings, brought him down a notch, made clear boundaries, and took back control.  My only regret is that I didn't do it sooner.  
I'll keep making nice breakfasts because I enjoy doing that, but I might just give myself more of a break and let my kids fix themselves some extra cereal days in between.  We all benefit.  I think they'll survive, I know I did. 

***picture is of me at age six with my very own mom