Friday, May 29, 2009

Silver Lining

At 2:17 pm I wake to the alarm and stumble out of bed. I weave around the dog, over correct and run into the wall as I make my way to the bathroom. This is my “I haven’t gotten enough sleep” routine whether at home or at work. Up, stumble, pee, brush hair, wipe drool and attempt to function. I’d been asleep an hour. Add that to the nap I got at work the night before and I’m running somewhere between three and a half to four hours sleep. I’ve worked five out of the last six nights.

Today is a transition day. An attempt to switch from night to day. My husband is sleeping on the couch. He's all but embroidered a “Do Not Disturb” sign on his shirt. He too worked overnight the last two nights. The story told in our house is that I do better with little sleep. I can handle it. So he will sleep and I will pick the kids up from school.

I try not to be resentful. It’s the easy thing to do. I flash to the conversation we had this morning. My husband wants to quit his job. He hates it. Well, he doesn’t hate the job so much as the management. He naively thinks employment utopia exists. He wants the perfect job; excellent hours, good pay, no stress, flawless management. My response? Get real. Every job sucks. And I can't earn enough money to support our family on my own.

"But," I say, "there are things we can do now to decrease our expenses so that maybe, maybe in the future only one of us has to work."

"Yeah right" he says, "B. S. We’re screwed. We’ve screwed ourselves."

Yeah dude - we’re screwed because you can’t retire at forty-two. We’re screwed because I refuse work to the bone to support EVERYONE and take on 70% of the household responsibility.

He’d counter that argument. He does dishes and laundry. He babysits. He thinks I don’t notice the things he does. I’m pretty sure he doesn’t notice the things I do.

I leave the house and drive through Starbucks for an iced coffee. It’s my second purchased beverage of the day. I begin to catalogue the list of sins recently committed ... buying coffee - TWICE. Having lunch at the crepe restaurant. Not exercising for the past two days. Sleeping while my youngest watched television. Not being a stay-at-home mom. Not earning enough money to fully support our family. The dirty house. The junk in my car. And on and on in perpetuity.

And then I stop. I have to stop. This list making is getting me nowhere. Clearly the mother-of-the-year committee will pass me by but so will child protective services.

It is what it is. Nothing more and nothing less.

My mind quiets and I notice the aspen leaves fluttering in the breeze. Each leaf is cupped like the hand of a beauty contestant; waving at me, saying Hello! Look what sits before you. I may be a simple tree, residing between a strip mall and the road but I AM GLORIOUS.

And then I see the cumulus clouds gathering around the periphery of town; stacks of fluffy white portending afternoon thunder. I want to dive in and breaststroke through the gossamer mounds. Pull, kick, glide. Pull, kick, glide. I’d poke my head out the pinnacle, grin at the sun and dive back down for more.

At this point I find myself at the school. I become overwhelmingly grateful for my son. He’s clean cut, intelligent, caring, well-liked and handsome to boot. I am incredibly incredibly lucky to have such wonderful children. Perfect? No way. But incredible - definitely.

As we leave a high school student allows five, FIVE, cars to pull out in front of him which significantly alleviates traffic. I wave in thanks and this kid gives me such a big and genuine grin that it brings tears to my eyes (did I mention I was tired?).

Now it’s my turn to pay-it-forward. I let a woman in the round about. She, too, gives me a huge smile and waves. Life is not so bad.

And so it goes. I will continue to stumble through the remainder of my day and will continue to make lists, happy lists, grateful lists. Tonight I will sleep, in my own bed, for an entire night. It will be divine. And tomorrow? Tomorrow will be even better.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Chicken Update

Our chicken girls are growing up.  We still haven't finished their coop; it remains half built in the driveway.  I think I'll let the grass grow wild and park a jalopy on the lawn to complete our urban chic visage.  It's all the rage you know.  (Actually I would love to buy an old camping trailer to refurbish ... it'd fit in well with our other front yard decor).

In the meantime the girls remain in the garage.  I've been letting them out for jaunts in our dirt patch future orchard.   They seem to stay in a cluster and don't travel far.  I was hoping they'd earn their keep by picking weeds but they seem more interested in taking dust baths. 

I am starting to notice their differences and can now identify them by name ... Harriet, Gertrude, Gracie and Rose Scooby-Doo (guess who named that one).  So far they all appear female; my fingers are crossed.  

I'm very hopeful we'll complete the coop this weekend and finally transition them to their permanent home. If anyone wants to lend a hand with our coop raising come on over.  I'll make lemonade and sandwiches ... just for putting on a roof.  

Happy Wednesday. 

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Windbag - Part One

When I was in my early twenties I would stay at my then boyfriend’s (now husband’s) “house” in Huntington Beach. House is a strong term and rather inaccurate. Actually he lived in a converted one car garage behind a house. The garage had room enough for a double bed, a small bathroom and a two burner cook top. It also had an ancient and gargantuan heating unit that reminded me of Dr. Suess and his borfin that shlumps.

The garage made me nervous, especially when alone after dark. The structure felt as if it would blow down with a simple huff and puff. When the police helicopters flew overhead, as they often did, I imagined hardened criminals barreling through the window in attempt to escape the omnipresent spotlight. My only hope was that these nerfarious individuals would bang their heads on the borfin thus knocking themselves unconscious. With the criminal sufficiently stunned I planned on running half naked down the street waving my arms like a lunatic in an attempt to flag down the pursuing helicopter (I actually had this scenario thoroughly worked out in my head. Thankfully it never came to fruition).

Huntington Beach, in and of itself, was not particularly dangerous; at least not any more perilous than any other Southern California metropolis. But I was young, on my own and jumpy. My disquiet was not without foundation.

First I was raised to believe that girls, and women by proxy, should not be alone after dark – especially not alone and outside. It simply was not safe. Females should be in a group or have a male escort. Period. The garage, by nature of it’s original intent to store vehicles, was not technically indoors. Nor was it outdoors. It was more of a middle ground between tent and house; something along the lines of a yurt. I was pretty sure a yurt did not provide adequate asylum.

Second a twenty-three year old friend of ours had recently disappeared, abducted from the side of the freeway. At that time her case had yet to be solved but she was presumed dead. Several of our male friends were “persons of interest” and the investigation was ongoing. ( It wasn’t until three years later that her case was solved when she was found in a freezer in Arizona). This deplorable incident only confirmed my parent’s convictions and gave me a well-founded basis of worry. 

I also had other, less valid, reasons to be apprehensive.  I had determined, by my prodigious powers of deduction, that a rapist lived in the vicinity. You see there was a person, a man, that drove a van. He parked this van on our street. This was not just any van. It was a monumental black van with darkened windows and a diamond plate sash. There could be no reason for a person to own such a vehicle other than to fulfill societies role of rapist.  None.  The fact that I’d never actually seen the person who drove this vehicle did nothing to dissuade my fears.  

And, of course, this van had to park on the same street as me day in and day out. I’d drive home from work with a sense of foreboding. I was alone and it was dark. My boyfriend, a bartender, wouldn’t be home for hours. Would the van be there? Would he be there?  Would I could I cross from street to pseudo-house in safety?

Then one night the van was not there. What a stroke of luck. I was safe.  I didn’t have to worry. Nonetheless I positioned my car keys through my fingers as an provisional weapon as I left my car. 

Just as I began the gauntlet from car to shelter the van pulled up. He parked ahead of my car.  I heard the driver’s door close and then the van door slide  open and shut. I paused and gripped my keys tighter. What should I do? Should I run? Should I walk at a fast pace? What I did not do was look behind me. I didn’t want to give him credence. I didn’t want him to know I knew he was there.

Then I heard a gruesome noise. An abominable noise. And I knew. This attacker wasn’t after me. He already had a victim; one that was screaming for help.  This was before the day of ubiquitous cell phones. I couldn’t simply dial 911 or send a text to the police.  And I also couldn’t decide … should I run? Should I scramble to the nearest house and plead to be let in? Or should I turn and face this man, stab him with my car keys and help his victim escape?

In a moment of undue courage I chose the later. Knowing I too could full well end up in a chest freezer in the middle of the desert I turned and faced the attacker. Only the scene wasn’t as I expected. I stood, slack jawed, trying to process what was in front of me. There stood a man in his early-thirties, barefoot and wearing a kilt. He was playing the bagpipes. The bagpipes!

I turned and ran to the garage laughing all the while. I laughed so hard I peed my pants (a feat not nearly so common in my pre-childbearing days). From that moment forward I was no longer afraid of the man in the van. And, from that day forward, my intrigue with the bagpipes began.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Bench Monday

Working twelve to fifteen hour night shifts leaves little time for much else (including sleep). But this afternoon I managed to slip out of my scrubs for a few minutes to take a Bench Monday shot.  Actually it's not a bench - it's our new coffee table.  A steal for $38.00 and sturdy enough to hold a grown woman.   The dress a spectacular four dollar find and no I'm not expecting (the dress and I are simply a bit poofy - to be remedied sooner than later).  The flowers - pilfered from our neighbor's lilac tree (shhhhh!).  I don't think they'll be missed and they smell delectable.  Our whole neighborhood is a bloom with these trees the and the marvelous scent is drifting on the breeze.  It's wonderful.  I only wish I had more time to play outside.  

Now back into my scrubs and back to work.  Tonight the kids will be dropped off at the clinic since both the hub and I will be on shift.  Oh I hope they behave.  Air mattresses, a movie then off to sleep for them (fingers crossed).  

Happy Monday!

Friday, May 15, 2009

Frugal Friday - Rent a Fire Lookout

Yesterday I walked downtown with my daughter. Walking is our transportation of choice for library excursions. On foot we listened to the birds chirp and watched them gather bits of twig and grass for their nests. We stopped and lifted our noses like curious dogs; inhaling the rock daphne’s fragrant aroma. We chatted about things to which I have no answer. Mom? Why does the wind blow? We pulled our windblown hair out of our faces and forged ahead hoping the rain would wait. At the library we checked out movies and books then stopped to sit on the couches with the huge teddy bears. Mama knit and little giggled as boys ran past. On the way home we detoured downtown for cocoa with extra whipped cream. It was a very lovely day.

On the way home I saw an ad in a shop window. I can’t remember exactly what it said but something along the lines of “come find yourself in Henderson Park.” In other words buy this over-priced piece of real estate and you will, finally, have the life you’ve always dreamed of. Me? I wondered what the taxes were and who planned on cleaning the place.

You see I think there are better places to find yourself. Camping for instance. What better way to get to know yourself than by stripping luxury to the bare bones. No silk sheets. No fancy bath bars. Just you, a tent and a cooler full of bean cakes. Or, if you’re really hard core, strip down to the marrow. Just you and nature. Mano a mano.

As great as this idea is I’m a bit of a wimp. My aging bones are not thrilled with a rock-laden bed. Don’t get me wrong. I’m no princess. I’ll sleep with a pea; or a whole bag if life necessitates. But rocks? Awww mom do I have to?

My ideal solution would be to buy a camping trailer. Specifically an Airstream pimped out sixties style. There’s only one problem: though an Airstream is cheaper than an extravagant condo I still can’t afford it. So here’s what I did instead.

I booked our family a mini summer vacation; two nights in a fire lookout. It has four walls, a roof, a propane stove and a bed. It does not have running water or a bathroom (though a porta-potty sits outside). And the best part? Our dogs can come too.

I am very excited about this trip. I expect to return fully refreshed and with a new appreciation for all I have (though I may want for a room with a view after sleeping under the stars). Had I opted for the luxury vacation I suspect I might come home broke and lamenting all the things missing from my life. 1000 thread count anyone?


It seems my brother and sister-in-law have been making fun of my frugal ways. "You both have jobs," they say, "why are you living like paupers?" I’d counter we aren’t living like paupers but we are living smart. We have debt. We’d like to retire. We want our children to go to college. Taking care of these things somehow seems more important than dinners out, TIVO or plasma screen televisions. Yes we both have jobs but contrary to popular belief brewers and veterinarians do not rake in the cash (laughs evilly as she drives away in her 2009 Ferarri - ha!).

Last year I read a story on Three Little Indian’s blog. This story resonated with me and described perfectly why we do the things we do. So make yourself a cup of coffee with the ugliest mug in the house and go read about hot chocolate.

Happy Frugal Friday!

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Today I Love ...

  • Walks to the library (we did the same walk last year)
  • Chatty five-year-olds
  • Holding hands
  • Triathlon training with my son 
  • Covered outdoor pools
  • Warm showers
  • Full bellies

Tuesday, May 12, 2009


Mother's Day was all I expected and then some. I got my frothy coffee and homemade dinner (guacamole burgers). I was also treated to a handful of tears and some moaning and groaning (it wouldn't be a day for mothers without it). We went for a three generation bike ride - us, the kids and my parents. I picked out my mother's day present - a new pair of running shoes. The shoes and I went for an inaugural run and had an accompanying photo shoot:

My daughter made me a card:

She also wrote a letter:

I love my mom when she bakes. Her food is mouth watering. Her dishes are very delicious and seem like they take a lot of work, but she says they're simple. She always adds the perfect amount of flavor. My mom cares about me and makes sure I succeed. She pushes me to organize. Her ideas are great. My mom has surprises of vacation and pets. I love my mom.

It was a good day. Yesterday back to the grindstone. I spent the ENTIRE day cooking and cleaning and then cleaning some more. And yet my house is not and will never be clean. Tonight it's back to work with both the hub and I on graveyard shift. Thank goodness my parents are still in town to watch the kids for one final night. The next four weeks will be tough. We'll get through.

Right now I'm enjoying my coffee in my new favorite mug. The husband is in bed for the day after working all night. The two older kids have been shuttled to school and the five-year-old is still asleep. This moment, tucked into a stressful upcoming month, is perfect. My plan is to steal these cracks in time where the light shines through.


And on a side note: Right now I am ever so thankful for this blog and for YOU! If not for you I'd be in so much trouble. You see last night I baked (cream scones, strawberries and homemade vanilla ice cream). When I bake I take off my wedding ring. Last night I left it on the butcher block. This morning, when taking a picture of my coffee mug, I remembered the ring and went to retrieve it. It was not there. Guess where it found it? In the garbage. THE GARBAGE! Today is trash day. I almost lost my wedding ring forever. And this is my second ring. My first diamond is apparently buried in the garden (as far as I can determine). Oh my. I am grateful grateful grateful that I found it. Thank you thank you.

Here's to you!

Saturday, May 9, 2009

What I Want for Mother's Day

An opportunity to sleep in ...

Frothy coffee made by someone other than me ...

Time to read ...

A little outdoor fun ...

And a lovely homemade dinner (husband prepared of course)

Happy Mother's Day to all you spectacular ladies out there...
I hope your day is as good as mine is bound to be!


Tuesday, May 5, 2009

I'm Raising a Bunch of Criminals

A Shady Character

My son is in the seventh-grade and this trimester is taking French. He adores his teacher and is enjoying the class. His grade is 120%. Yes, 120. He didn’t just give an extra ten percent. No. He gave twenty. So, yes, he’s doing well in school. Now you might think a kid with straight A's would remember to bring his French grade report home. You’d think he might even want to show this particular grade report to his parents. But, though intelligent, my son is not organized. Not at all. It seems all three of my kids were born with the why do it now when it can be done later gene. There is such a gene. It's all nature and has nothing to do with nuture; i.e. it not my fault. Nope. Nuh-uh. Never.

At any rate my son forgot to get his grade report signed and a signed report was worth five points. FIVE POINTS. And since my son was intent on gathering points like a miser hoarding pennies he signed the paper himself, in my name. Yup - forgery. Now it seems that the twelve-year-old and his, ahem, slightly older mother have disparate signatures. My son got caught.

Bless his heart his first instinct was to call me from school and tell me everything. That afternoon my husband and I conferred and decided this incident was not entirely our son’s fault. After all we allowed him to sign our name on a note so he could ride the bus home with a friend. And he wasn’t trying to hide anything bad. So my husband called and talked both with the French teacher and the principal. It seems the school was less willing to brush off this incident. I do see their point; forgery and plagiarism are serious crimes. My son was given a day of in-school suspension. We tried to explain to him that the other notes he signed were more like powers-of-attorney because we had knowledge of them and had given him permission to do so. In this case, however, we were not consulted and therefore it was wrong.

I also told him he might see Molly Ringwald during detention. But, because I AM SO OLD, the reference went right over his head.

Well it seemed one out three kids was a criminal. Not bad. I mean statistically one of them was going to be a bad seed, right?

My son did his time, we exculpated his record and left for our weekend getaway. Since we were on vacation (probably the largest vacation we’ll take this year) we lightened up with our frugal regulations. Each child was given a souvenir budget with the understanding that once spent there would be no additional purchases.

My youngest daughter immediately spent all her money on a webkinz from the local toy store. Really I'd rather not talk about it. A webkinz. But it was her money to spend.

Middle daughter brought us to a pet store where she purchased a dog biscuit cookbook. My son elected to save his money until he found just what he was looking for. Now while in the pet store my youngest daughter spied a mouse. No not a real one. A toy mouse. She wanted this mouse for our cats. She needed this mouse for our cats.

Ah a perfect learning opportunity
I thought and told her no, her budget was spent and perhaps next time she’d not spend it so readily. Easy enough. Having imparted an important life lesson I proudly walked out of the store.

We left to pick up their father from his conference and go on a chicken coop tour (The Tour De Coops). Halfway through our tour my son yells out from the backseat, “Hey?!! Where did you get that?!!” (think Target Lady)

Yup, you guessed it. My daughter had the mouse. Filched. Purloined. Stolen.

She immediately began to bawl, refused to talk and refused to leave the car. She bellowed for forty-five minutes. During this period said mouse also disappeared (thrown out the window I suspect).

That evening we returned to the pet store to pay for the missing mouse. The shop owner said that was a first and thanked us for our honesty.

We, the parents, may be honest but it seems we're raising a bunch of criminals. The way I see it if this morals thing doesn’t work out we have the makings of a mafia style business. I’m just glad no one’s yet wielded a gun.


Monday, May 4, 2009

It's amazing what a little ice cream will do

This past weekend we escaped to Hood River, Oregon. Saturday was blustery with on again off again rain showers. We’d already been caught in one downpour while walking to dinner. My family, therefore, had the distinct privilege of dining with a wet sheep - me (that’s what I get for wearing wool). I may have been soaked but at least I was warm.

After dinner the clouds broke and we decided to take our chances walking around town. We didn’t make it far before the sun disappeared and we were once again heralded by May showers. Fortunately Mike’s Ice Cream Shop provided immediate shelter.

Really Mike’s isn’t so much a shop as a hut. Our family of five overtook the interior and others had to seek divergent refuge. Apparently the shop is not insulated or heated though it was surprisingly toasty this weekend. Must’ve been the wet wool and tight quarters.

We had just enough money for three scoops of ice cream. The girls split a scoop, Mom and Dad split a scoop and the boy got his own. While the ice cream was divvied out I sat on a stool and watched the storm.

The rain was, as they say, coming down in sheets with big fat drops. These drops were intent on getting from point A to point B in the least amount of time and weren’t going to allow a little wind to veer them off course. The pear blossoms, however, were lighter and fluttered about twirling up and down and all around. It looked like they were dancing. I quickly decided I’d rather be the blossom than the drop; life might toss you about but at least you’d enjoy the ride.

And as I sat on the stool I realized something else. I was one hundred percent content. It seems all it takes to make me happy is my family, modest shelter and french roast ice cream. You see I am quite easy to please.


Today I am equally content because it is Bench Monday over at Flickr. A new thrifted outfit, a garage sale tripod and my trusty camera. It doesn't get better than that!

Happy Monday!