Sunday, December 31, 2006


Last year I made one meager resolution: I was not going to go to or buy anything at McDonald's in 2006. (Full disclosure: the kids like getting burgers and frostys at Wendy's for a mere $4.08. They also love Subway and Chinese noodles.) I wanted to challenge some suburban mythology, that McDonald's is germane to my way of life. I was sick and tired of bringing home junky toys, and even junkier food. It always bothered me that one of the top 100 words, above church and beside Mom, that children with delays were tested on was the word McDonald's. It's that ingrained into our culture. So, in my own little way, I questioned why. I had other goals, but this was one tangible choice I made.

As a kid, I always looked forward to the beginning of school, and the beginning of the year. I still do. I always felt like it was a time to reinvent myself - a luxury afforded by the stability of living in the same town my whole childhood. I always wanted to be NEW and IMPROVED. Now I just want to be joyful, deliberate and thoughtful.

And fit into my jeans.


I had a tough time getting ready for church this morning. I was sleepy and tempted to stay home. But I dropped the kids off at the Kids' Community and settled in just in time to hear Don Miller speak about the power of stories, living God's story for our lives. I perked right up. Near the end, he posed the question: Do you want to live out your fears or do you want to live out your dreams? (He also seemed worried that he was sounding a bit like a self-help speaker.) I vote for dreams in 2007. Yeah, let's dream.

Happy New Year. Be well and safe tonight.

Saturday, December 30, 2006

Top ten books, 2006

I woke up this morning, sandwiched between the two Milton men in my life. Greg was facing east, Zack the west (he had joined us around 6 am), and both boys were snoring. Unable to move without waking them, I started thinking about the books I've read this year - the ones I loved, the ones that gave me pause, the ones I read 50 pages from and returned to the library. Here's my top ten.

  • Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli Stephanie Spencer (aka 'Mason's Mom') suggested Stargirl over the summer. YA is my weak spot - I haven't read much of it since I was young, if that tells you anything. No wonder Spinelli is so widely recommended; the writing feels spot on for the tender teenage years.
  • Utterly Me, Clarice Bean by Lauren Child When reading to my kids at night, I need, I demand, something funny from time to time. British author Child writes great picture books as well (Charlie and Lola is a Playhouse Disney cartoon these days). I loved reading this dry chapter book out loud each night. My laughter was genuine.
  • The Doctor's Wife by Elizabeth Brundage Over the summer, I sought out novels by new authors. It just feels good to recommend a fledgling writer; help boost a career. This is a creepy suburban tale, a little dark and spooky, but lots of fun.
  • Possible Side Effects by Augusten Burroughs This was the latest installment of books by the author of Running with Scissors. I read each new book immediately. They are crude and sad, disturbing and hopeful - not everyone's cup of tea, I'm sure. But his personal story is so compelling; I share his disbelief that he is still alive. I root for this guy.
  • Iran Awakening: A Memoir of Revolution and Hope by Shirin Ebadi There has been a lot of talk about Iran over the past year. Edadi, a Nobel Peace Prize winner, outlines her life during the Shah years, the revolution and modern day Iran. She has fought for women and children's rights in a country that values neither. I was struck by her commitment to her country, when she could have fled. She dreams a better dream for her fellow Iranians. It's an inspiring story from a strange land - one I don't completely understand.
  • Lipstick Jihad: A Memoir of Growing up Iranian in America and American in Iran by Avadeh Moaveni Ok, so I gravitate towards themes while I am reading. Moaveni grew up in the Silicon Valley, but her family's heart was always back in Iran. I always picture Tehran, and frankly, it doesn't appeal to me. But when I heard her describe her family's estates, or the mountains or the coast, I grew fond of the Persian culture. There was a lot to love. Unfortunately, when she worked as a reporter in Iran, she was subject to the same laws and religious zealots as her native countrymen. Everything she wrote had to be approved by her state-sanctioned companion. It was an interesting contrast to Edadi's book; both haunted me.
  • Aloft by Chang-rae Lee I have picked up this title several times before I finally read it, while sick this fall. I love Lee's writing style. He writes long, beautiful sentences. I can't wait to read his 2 previous books in 2007.
  • Between, Georgia by Joshilyn Jackson Did you read gods in Alabama? Ok, if you haven't please give it a try. Jackson is funny, irreverent, light. (Or check out her blog, Faster than Kudzu) Between is her second novel. I am not a big 'chick lit' girl, but this book made me giggle and cry. She's one of my favorite new writers.
  • Broken for You by Stephanie Kallos This is Kallos's first novel, recommended to me by several people over the year. I was a dope for not picking it up sooner. Do you believe that broken folks can find a happy ending? Kallos did. And so did I after reading this book. I was left with long lasting, if not sappy, warm fuzzies that went on entirely too long after I closed the book. No really.
  • How to Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee The last time I read Mockingbird, some teacher was forcing me to do so. I remembered liking it, but I just couldn't appreciate it under the gun. I reread a couple of months ago. It is a masterpiece, flawless. No only regret is that Lee didn't go on to write another novel.

Did I find 10? I think so. It's time for bed. (After I read a little of the new Stephen King, of course.)

Thursday, December 28, 2006

A word from the editor

Yes, that would still be me. I am over the Christmas red and green blog colors. Sorry the site is pretty bland right now. I am working on spicing it up over the next week. I really want 3 columns. Really. There's no place like 3 columns.

(Maybe if I click my heels and stuff, it will happen.)

Mom and Dad can hardly wait...

Well, maybe Dad is kinder than me. Or maybe it's because he is back at work.

During the summer, I remember that my sanity was threatened by the constant use of my name, you know, MOM. Mom, mom, mom, mom. Lexi tends to begin every sentence, addressed to me, Mom,.... Even when she is giving a 'monologue' of sorts directly to me. And it must be answered audibly for her to continue.

Now that we are in closer, winter courtiers, there's a new trend. It's the tap. It's usually employed while we are cloistered together and I am chatting with a grown-up. (If they want to add to the conversation, they do their best Horshak, and Mrs. Kotter calls on them.) It starts as a soft tap, on my arm or side, and grows as they get impatient while I finish my sentence. And I say they because they often have something to say, at the same time, so I get tapping in HDTV stereo. I know it sounds sweet, gentle. I am here to proclaim that it drives me crazy.

It could be worse. Give 'em a few years and they'll rig some collar that zaps me when they need my immediate attention. It would certainly work.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Blissful health

The Day came and went. It was near perfect. The kids were thrilled that Santa found our house. (Lexi got her first camera; Zack finally has a 'boy' scooter.) I made cinnamon rolls, but they were too excited to eat. Greg and the kids checked out a new video game while I did 20 minutes of yoga with Sara Ivanhoe. (Doing a little yoga staves off aches and pains-- it's the best stress reliever.)

We had a great day with my family. The kids got just the right amount of loot. They weren't overwhelmed, or crazed. Everything fit in the car. We were relaxed and happy. The food was great.

It wasn't all that different from past holidays. That is, with one big exception. I felt physically great. No serious headache or neurological problem. No sinus infection. A little fatigue, but the normal 'I-have-kids-at-Christmas' kind. Being well makes everything better, sweeter, richer. Health is the best gift of all.

Monday, December 25, 2006

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Happy birthday, Mom!

Ammy's birthday
Originally uploaded by mama.milton.
Yes, amidst the holiday hustle and bustle, today is my Mom's birthday. It's not hailed as the best day to have a birthday, or a party for that matter, yet she would say that she doesn't know anything different. When Lori and I were little girls, she spent her birthdays staying up late sewing doll clothes for us, baking and assembling toys. We have celebrated in restaurants where the staff is itching to go home and vacuumed during the meal. We've seen Santa. I think the only thing I have yet to see is my Mom complain. She is the best.

We had a little party, with a poinsettia-free cake, at my Grandma's house last night. My Dad took her to breakfast this morning. Undoubtedly, she is getting ready for tomorrow the rest of the day.

So, happy birthday Mom. We love you.

Have as peaceful a birthday as you can.

Love, Lisa

Saturday, December 23, 2006

We're remodeling

I have been wanting to paint our bedroom, jazz it up a little bit. Right now it's a bit hodge podge--great paintings and quilt, patchy white paint and clutter. We never got around to it all year. Until this week...

Good news: Greg picked up the paint and is inspired, motivated and eager (read manic) to begin painting. He is a Christmas elf (boy would he bristle at that description), ready to bring joy to this girl.

Bad news: It's the days leading up to Christmas. I am in full Santa-mode, baking and trying to keep the kids relaxed (if that's possible).

I am thrilled to have a new bedroom; I am just preoccupied. I'm sure the mamas out there can relate.

Friday, December 22, 2006

This side of Retail

I have clocked more hours shopping this week than in the last six months, neigh, perhaps in all of 2006. (I like new, shiny things as much as the next person, I just am not a big shopper. I don't love malls.) We shopped every day of our trip--in Medford, Jacksonville and Ashland. I got home and realized we needed food, so the kids and I went grocery shopping. After behaving well all week, their grouchy sides emerged. They just wanted to play at home. I was right there with them. I usually like going to Trader Joe's and checking out stuff, tasting goodies and coffee. But it chaotic out there ladies and gents. Crazy.

Today we went to the mall to finish shopping for my Mom's birthday and for Greg. We also needed to see Santa. I was honestly filled with dread. But after waiting 1.5 hours, the kids came away with a big smiles. They were thrilled. It took another 20 minutes to get out of said mall's parking lot, but who's counting, right?

I think we are done. I feel done. And if we missed anything, there's always the customary New Year's gift. What?

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Medford recap

Greg and Nikki
Originally uploaded by mama.milton.
We're home!

We spent five days with Greg's family; it was a great visit. Nikki, Greg's sister, drove up from from San Diego with her three sons, Danny (13), Josh (10) and Trevor (8). Her daughter Adri is a freshman at Boise State. It was amazing to have everyone there at once. We will have to do it more often.

Adri flew to Medford Saturday morning, so she was there when we arrived. She looks so much like Nikki and the boys, it is startling. She is absolutely charming, witty and sweet. She exhibited the patience of Job with Lexi, who is enamored with her older cousin. She is a theatre major and a bit of a movie buff, so we had plenty to talk about. I was glad she was able to come--I imagine it must be strange meeting another family, and maybe awkward with her Mom in Boise. I am grateful to have her in our lives.

The boys are so big now! I haven't seen them since Trevor was a baby. The last time I saw Danny, he was practicing reading to me. Now he plays guitar and is certainly more hip than me. Josh was great hauling Zack around on his back, showing him video games. The cousins played so well together, like they hang out all the time. I am trying to figure out a time to go visit them in California.

We celebrated birthdays and Christmas together, went out to dinner --the girls even got pedicures and manicures. We were spoiled rotten. Greg and I also reconnected with some friends we lost touch with while we were there. I can't wait to catch up.

The only bummer was some of my pictures didn't turn too good. The family pictures were either dark, or blurry. Boo! And I think I gave Greg and Nikki brown eyes when I fixed the red eye in this photo--but I liked this picture too much to pass up on posting it. Dan, my father-in-law, is going to send a disc with all the family pictures so I should have some good ones to add to flickr later and print. I wish I had taken some in Ashland (where Greg proposed) or of the frosty orchards, but I didn't want to take the camera everywhere. It was beautiful.

Well, I better go finish unpacking and cleaning. I am sure the kids have managed to spread every new toy and art supply throughout the house while I have been typing. Yep, I am sure of it.

Friday, December 15, 2006


I just finished a marathon session of reading some of my favorite blogs. We are headed to Medford, Oregon tomorrow morning, bright and early, to visit my in-laws. I have a feeling that I won't be posting, reading or giving in to any of my other obsessions while away. It should be an eventful trip. The kids are excited to see the baby llamas (Greg's parents have a ranch full of them)--someone suggested we could tie it in to the nativity, talk about the manger amid the hay. We'll see. With our allergies, sometimes it is best to use our big imaginations.

My sister-in-law, Nikki, and her three sons will be up from San Diego. It's been over 5 years; she's never seen Zack. Nikki also reunited with her biological daughter, Adri, after she turned 18 this fall. Adri is coming to meet the family--I can't imagine what she must be thinking. It must be a lot to take in. Lexi is over the moon to have another lady in the extended family. I'll have to keep her from harrassing her too much. My girl is chatty-mc-chat. We may never hear from Adri again.

My Christmas cards are sent; the teacher gifts have been given. Time to make sure that everyone has undies, and no summer dresses have been packed. At least we don't have to pack diapers anymore.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

I am 36 today.

I am 36 today.
Originally uploaded by mama.milton.
Earlier today, I posted a picture I just couldn't live with. Sure, my nephew was cute in it, but even he looked a little, well, strange. Austin was born on my 32nd birthday--talk about an awesome birthday gift. When he arrived, I had myself been in the driver's seat, so to speak, twice, but I had never witnessed how amazing birth is. I also saw shooting stars, but I think that was from the migraine I was getting that day. Who knows. Maybe it was just the wonder of it all.

I like this self-potrait better. This is what I look like, encroaching wrinkles and all. (Well-earned wrinkles at that.) I try not to spend too much time worrying about aging, or getting too chubby. Life is short, and really, what is the alternative? I hope I will eventually become a wise old lady instead just a smarty-pants. Tis good.

So, happy birthday Austin. It's a good day to be born.

Aunt Sissy

Tuesday, December 12, 2006


My nephew, Caden, will be 17 months this week. He is super cute and my kids are gaga for him. He has been saying 'Mama' for some time now, and he gestures and babbles. And then he whipped out 'Santa' this week--he's no fool. He knows who the key players are.

We celebrate Christmas in many ways. We love the spirit of giving; we believe in the Christmas story, that God came near in the form of a baby. We also embrace fat ol' Santa and the Grinch. I know some Christians have a problem with the secular symbols of the season, but I find the materialism, in and outside the church, to be far more alarming. I grew up in a church where there was barely any mention of Christmas. I always felt a void. I secretly envied Catholics, what with their midnight masses and spiritual rituals. I love that we participate in Advent now. We meet in a high school gym. It's not the most fancy place around, but come December, the lights are lowered, the candles are lit, and it is magical. I hope I am creating good memories for my kids that will stay with them--more than anything I can grab at the store.

Friday, December 08, 2006

That's why it's called a tragedy

Lexi finished Tonight on the Titanic a while back during a marathon reading session--she can polish off little chapter books in one sitting if properly motivated (threatened). She was taken by this story and made up a little diddy to go with it. (There's a musical in the works.) But there was a lightness in her song, a detachment I recognized. I have a hard time digesting the number of deaths in Darfur or Baghdad; I can't wrap my mind around childhood prostitution in Thailand or even the loss of life and livelihood in our own country, in New Orleans. Peering through my TV or computer, it is an intellectual knowledge--I'm ashamed to admit the nightly news doesn't always stir my heart.

So, I watched James Cameron's The Titanic, moving through the inappropriate scenes, with Lexi. I remembered this movie as somewhat corny, with the main characters calling out to each other endlessly to the end. (Rose. Jack. Rose. Jack.) I forgot how powerful it could be, especially if you are a kid. Lexi could not stop trying to rewrite the ending of the story, although she knew how it would end.

Maybe another boat will make it in time...
They'll go back for the people in the water...
Maybe there are more lifeboats, they just don't know...
Mom, what will happen to those kids?...what will happen to that Mom and baby?

I wasn't trying to traumatize her; I wanted her to understand, as much as she can, that those numbers in her book stand her real people, with real hopes, real dreams. And all the errors of judgement had deadly consequences. It was a tragedy.


I was home a lot this week, being sick and all. I followed the James and Kati Kim story, the San Francisco family that took a wrong turn in southern Oregon and found themselves stranded on a deserted road. I couldn't help thinking about what would I do if I were in their shoes. (And please spare me the 'I am smarter/better/wiser' so I would never be in such a situation, for we are all vulnerable and make mistakes.) Kati must have been so scared alone with her kids when her husband didn't return. He traveled over 10 miles in difficult terrain, determined to save his family.

I am a 8 year-old again:

What if they had just went home...
What if the road had been better marked...the fence intact...
What if he had been in the car when they were rescued...
And did he know his family was saved?...that he was near a lodge?

I know the outcome; I can't imagine the grief. With all the worlds' tragedies, this is a story I will not forget any time soon.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Flu Deux

I attended a very small Christian college; our enrollment, including 'commuters', was just under 300. This is quite an intimate setting. It is difficult to skip a class when you are one in five. It harder yet to avoid the flu when you share an apartment-like dorm with 5 other suite mates. My friend Rachael was the first of room 104 to contract the plague, I mean, Asian flu that fall. Our hands-on nurse quarantined her to our room and put me in charge of bringing jello and juice until she got well. Rachael was no whiner--confident, smart and tough-- so it kind of freaked me out to see her stay in bed for days. When my turn came, as it were, she took care of me. I guess our room lucked out because our outbreak was staggered, leaving someone standing to care for the others.

Which brings me to one of the biggest news stories of last winter. Remember the wall-to-wall coverage of the deadly Avian flu due to touch down at any minute? There was talk of state quarantines (which is noteworthy when your husband works in the neighboring state), high death tolls, lost manpower and apocalyptic mayhem. Like so many things (are liquids deadly on planes this week?), one never knows what is hype and what to heed. I guess I pictured myself caring for my sick children, able to run to the store or doctor to procure the necessary items for their survival. The advice to keep tuna stored under the bed should have been my clue, because in delirium and fatigue and malaise, I couldn't manage to go downstairs to get an icepack no matter how bad my head hurt, and this isn't even the flu of the century. As for foraging for my kids, today was the first time all week I have hopped in a car for a brief excursion in the real world. The day before Zack got sick, I had marveled, privately, how healthy we had been. I didn't prepare. But what would I do anyway?

Well, here's my crunchy thoughts, if I were to do this week again. I am a big fan of oscillococcinum; anecdotally I have had success with it in the past, at the very beginning of the flu. There is also some great research supporting elderberry extract as well. My naturopath uses the antiviral herb, Lomatium Dissectum. It's a little tough to find, but when Lexi was 6 and got really sick, it seemed to work miracles. There are reports about NW Native American tribes that weathered the big 1918 outbreak using L. Dissectum--with fewer deaths. I think I am going to have some on hand, just in case.

As for the tuna under the bed, I think I will hold off. Lexi loves tuna; would eat it everyday if I let her. (She now knows she has a mercury quota each week.) But in case of flu, I think I'd fare better with a little camping stove, noodles, broth and water--and a whole lot of prayer and luck.

Technorati tags:

Monday, December 04, 2006

Postcards from Influenza

I generally find that we, the American collective, whine entirely too much. And we are rather melodramatic about our maladies. (Did I mention I write another blog all about chronic illness?) Here in suburbia, every sniffle is attributed to the flu; every retch is the 'stomach flu', whatever that is. So, when we get sick in the winter, I like to call it 'whatever's going around', or 'a bug' or a simple 'virus'.* But as I lay in bed last Friday night, I started to wonder if we do in fact have the flu. Oh, and Greg (smugly) asked--he with the arm-full of flu shot. And I imagine he might be covered. As such, he is in charge of renting new movies to entertain the troops and buying top ramen and Marvel superhero popsicles.

After we cancelled all of Saturday's plans (Lexi was going to collect canned food and carol at a retirement home with her girl scout troop; we were all going to a birthday party), we became one with the couch and partook of way too much The Suite Life of Zack and Cody. I think there was a marathon going on, but I wasn't coherent enough to tell. I actually read, aided by some a hefty dose of Excedrin, Chang-rae Lee's Aloft--a book I've shuffled around at Borders, but never got around to reading. (It is blurbworthy, I promise. When I'm cheery and bright, I'll tackle that post.) I dozed in and out of consciousness, and it would occur to me to check on the kids, Lexi in particular, as Zack's fever had finally broke after 2 days. She hadn't moved, or talked, in hours. If you have ever spent time with a 3rd grade girl, you know, the not talking is rather alarming. She was wiped out.

By Sunday, it became clear that I needed to clear our schedule--no Advent, no Taize, no baby shower brunch, no volunteering in Zack's class. I hoped he might make a guest appearance at school today, but he woke up coughing and sneezing, seemingly anew. Lexi looked up and mumbled, "Great, that's how I'll be tomorrow." She's figured out she's about a day behind him; she's done the math. Sorry sweetcheeks, but you are probably right.

Thankfully, we are starting to bounce back. I noticed there is laundry to do, dishes to wash, and Christmas card envelopes to address. (Can you Lysol envelopes?) I may attempt something between the crushing waves of fatigue. Something besides blowing my nose. I see Zack is sleeping again, so I am calling it the flu. It's the gift that keeps on giving.

*Last year we had the gastrointestinal virus referred to as the Norfolk virus on the news when it shut down local schools. You couldn't go anywhere without a kid puking on your shoes. I just called it 'hell'.

Technorati tags:

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Acquired taste

Greg and I had a couple nights last weekend to ourselves. Like most parents, we filled much of our Happy Hour talk about our hopes and dreams and fears--for and about our offspring. It's only natural, I guess. Zack shows signs of being quite a class clown--he is corny and happy and a ham. But beyond these things, I asserted, he really seems to have an unusual, wry sense of humor for a 5 year old.

The kids came home and it snowed. After a long day of school and snowball fights, I spent a few minutes watching the snow fall outside Zack's bedroom window before tucking him in. We spoke in hushed tones; the night was peaceful and still. Then I looked over at Zack. He was sitting on his knees, with a perfectly straight face and his straw from his water glass shoved up his nose. Just waiting for me to notice. Of course when I laughed, he nearly fell off his bed laughing too--which could have led to some serious nostril damage what with the straw and all. Such is life with Zack, the resident kindergarten comedian.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Miltons + Snow = Fun

Miltons + Snow = Fun
Originally uploaded by mama.milton.
Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow.

I don't want nasty freezing rain, or treacherous road conditions. But this little bit of snow was beautiful today. It's not often the kids can have a snow fight in their own backyard. Check out more pictures on my flickr account.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Grandma Jean and the four greats

Happy Thanksgiving, a few days late. I thought I'd post this picture my Mom took of my Grandma and the great grandkids. Greg and I have been shopping today and enjoying the weekend, ALONE. Lexi and Zack are hanging out with my folks, getting spoiled and decorating for Christmas.

Hope you are enjoying the weekend.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

It matches my car

To go with my car
Originally uploaded by mama.milton.

Well, sorta.

I have never been a car person, and I tend to drive like an old lady. I drove a SUV, a Dodge Durango, when my need to tote four little kids was stronger than my fear of rolling the massive hunk of metal and hurting someone. Namely me and the babies. I know many people feel safer in SUVs. I never did. So when my day care days were officially over, I got a car. I now drive a WRX subaru wagon.

I have to say it's the most fun I have ever had driving. And it's good I feel this way because my hubby and kiddos are positively spun over these cars. They love going to Subie festivals and camp outs, rallies and races. Greg brought this hat back for me from his latest event in Seattle.

It looks like I have crossed over. I guess I'm a groupie too.

Or at least I have a great hat for bad hair days.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

I usually balk at this stuff

My sister often sends those 'getting to know you' emails. You answer the questions and are supposed to forward the questionnaire to everybody you know. I never do. Not once. I also don't like those chain letters, or recipe exchanges, or book trades. I am no fun.

But I did respond this once to her Christmas email. It was the implication that I am scrooge and not very nice if I don't participate that broke me. He sees me when I am sleeping, ya know. I couldn't take any chances. Here's my answers if you feel so inclined.

Welcome to the Christmas edition of getting to know your friends. Okay,
here's what you're supposed to do, and try not to be a SCROOGE!!!Just copy
(do not forward) this entire email and paste into a new e-mail that you can
send. Change all the answers so that they apply to you. Then send this to a
whole bunch of people you know, *INCLUDING* the person that sent it to you.
'Tis the Season to be NICE!

1. Wrapping paper or gift bags? Reuse bags and decorative boxes--less fuss and muss

2. Real tree or artificial? We like fake trees; nasty allergies in play here

3. When do you put up the tree? Some time between thanksgiving and the 15th

4. When do you take the tree down? Around Greg's birthday, Jan. 2nd

5. Do you like eggnog? No eggs for me, see #2

6. Favorite gift received as a child? I was a teenager when I received an encyclopedia set. I'm a nerd; I loved it.

7. Do you have a nativity scene? We have a hand carved one from Peru. There are llamas and extra children in attendance.

8. Hardest person to buy for? Anyone over 20 is tough.

9. Easiest person to buy for? Zack. He likes everything. He'd be thrilled with undies for Christmas.

10. Mail or email Christmas cards? Mail cards and newsletters.

11. Worst Christmas gift you ever received? My grandparents got me a little funhouse mirror when I was little. It made me feel ugly and mad. I ended up getting in trouble for being such an ingrate, so I really remember this gift.

12. Favorite Christmas Movie? Huge sucker for It's a Wonderful Life. Always cry. I also like watching Christmas Vacation, Simon Birch & Elf.

13. When do you start shopping for Christmas? Just depends-usually done 2 weeks before Christmas.

14. Have you ever recycled a Christmas present? Not yet.

15. Favorite thing to eat at Christmas? Does Bailey's and coffee count? I love gussied up rice krispie treats called scotcharoos.

16. Clear lights or colored on the tree? No set plan. I like the new retro big lights.

17. Favorite Christmas song? Ave Maria by Chris Cornell (lead singer from Soundgarden and Audioslave). Beautiful vocals.

18. Travel at Christmas or stay home? We are heading to Jacksonville, Oregon to see Greg's family the week before Christmas. Then it's off to Sandy, Oregon on Christmas Day.

19. Can you name all of Santa's reindeers? Yep.

20. Angel on the tree top or a star? Big white shiny star.

21. Open the presents Christmas Eve or morning? We have always celebrated our Mom's birthday on Christmas Eve. It's a busy week!

22. Most annoying thing about this time of year? Staying healthy (no cluster headaches) and dealing with crazy drivers.

23. Favorite ornament theme or color? I just like collecting the memories.

24. Favorite for Christmas dinner? I like the traditional food, but wouldn't mind trying some ethnic traditions too. Greg grew up with big Italian christmas dinners--lots of handmade pasta. Sounds fun.

Ta da.

Can you feel it?

We are just days away from the official kickoff to that crazy season. I stopped by Borders Saturday and got all nostalgic when I saw this year's decorations, that is until I saw the information desk. Where do all these uptight women come from? They are curt, and impatient and it is not even crunch time yet. I beg of you. Show some manners this holiday season. And now that I am not working in retail, I am going to take up the cause of those who are. If you are being a jerk, shame on you. Take a deep breath and relax. No really.

My side of the family has agreed to buy just for the kids again this year. (Except for my Grandma. We will buy for her.) This is such a gift. Greg and I are going to shop together again this year for the kids. It makes me feel that I am not alone in the holiday plans. I feel pretty relaxed. Maybe I will regret this laissez faire attitude in a couple of weeks, but I doubt it. I just don't see why it is necessary to lose my mind for Jesus' sake.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Spongebob may be useful afterall

I have successfully banned Spongebob Squarepants from my household for years. Sure, my Dad watched it, but he's a grown man free to make such choices. I am not a fan. For years I have had a sneaking suspicion that Spongebob's glee for flipping burgers is some McDonald's conspiracy to brainwash legions of future robots, I mean, employees. It's just a theory. But the time came when Zack was not only aware of the phantom sea creature, but unnaturally interested in it. (I think Papa was slipping him episodes at his house.) Figuring that this particular forbidden fruit was probably not the cultural battle I want to fight, I finally conceded and let Zack watch it from time to time. Or everyday.

When the kids came home from school yesterday, they doled out hugs (to me) and immediately started fighting over the smencils. Smelly pencils. Don't ask. I'll spare you the fight details because it was the typical sibling squabble that ended with both kids in their rooms. Lexi was howling and hyperventilating because she was sure I had thrown the smencils away--the ones she bought with her own money. This was key because she is learning that money is certainly more valuable when it was hers vs. mine. But she seemed equally worried that I had thrown them away because they are recycleable. This is a crime. I guess her first thoughts were that I would punish her by destroying perfectly good pencils and mother earth. She thinks very highly of me. I told her they were just on 'vacation' until the Milton war ceased. She started breathing again.

Zack was sitting quietly in his room. He wasn't worried about pencils, or the planet, or being busted. I calmly explained that it isn't OK to attack, hit or pinch his big sister when he gets mad at her. He nodded, placating his Mom until he could enter battle again. I then lowered the boom.

"If you attack Sissy, you will not be able to watch Spongebob tomorrow."

So few words. So much impact. His eyes got big. His lip came out. And he kept his hands to himself. Finally, I have found something I can like about Bob. (Can I call him Bob?) I will exploit him for my own evil agenda--peace on earth in my little corner of the world.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Among my worries

We in the northwest are accustom to rain, but this is ridiculous. Floods. And it keeps coming. We live in a suburb, but we have several trees on our property--it tricks my brain into thinking we are just a little rural.

The trees are cause for many sleepless nights. Within 6 days of moving in, we suffered 80 mph winds that took off most of our roof. Welcome to home ownership. I don't remember the realtor bringing up the fact that we are in the route of the famous East, Chinook winds that rip up the Columbia River gorge. We lost three big branches in August that took out part of the fence, but no damage to the house. It scared us though. Made us shudder the noise was so loud.

So, I worry about trees falling on our house. Not that there's much I could do if it happens. I worry first about our safety, our home. But truth be known, I am scared that if I did survive a tree landing in my bed, there would be footage of our bedroom clutter on the nightly news. Nothing keeps me clean and tidy like the fear of being outed for the clutter keeper I am. (See also slob.) I guess this is a built-in cleaning intervention for the next 4 months. God works in mysterious ways.

Thursday, November 09, 2006


I wanted to write a great book blurb, but I didn't like Music for Torching. Not enough to write a bunch about it. It is a stark, hard view of suburban life-which, by the way, I like. I enjoy a wide range of subversive titles. But I usually can identify with the angst behind the dark plotline, and I empathize with the characters. Just didn't happen for me here.


I love BloggerBeta (so far). My DIY approach to building categories has been such a waste of time. Now I can stay HTML-ignorant and still do fun stuff. Yah.


I have had a date every day this week. Not that kind of date; coffee dates with friends. Imagine me, having friends, being social. I am a college slacker chick again. With girl scouts, and a mortgage, and kids to raise, and a husband to love, and dinner to make, and words to write, and house to clean, and church to serve, and books to read, and. Ok. My true slacker days are over. Praise be the productive

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Record rainfall

Record rainfall
Originally uploaded by mama.milton.
Sunday I went on a date in downtown Portland. It was rainy and windy. Which is a silly thing to note in November here. We walked several blocks to the Portland Art Museum, passing through the most wicked in the best way foliage I have ever seen. I was enthralled. And without my camera. It kicked Monet's bootay, although I did enjoy a real date with my real hubby.

I had planned to return today, but with the flooding and all, I guess I missed out. It's probably hard to capture the magic anyway.

Monday, November 06, 2006

The doctor needs to be seen

When exactly did Dr. Phil go all Springer on us? I remember the good old days, when he made appearances on Oprah, and gave solid advice to people looking to solve everyday problems. I liked that Phil. I liked that Robyn, before she did something odd to her face. And their kids weren't marrying porn stars back then.

Greg says ratings happened to Mr. McGraw. That you gotta draw them in. But do I need to see episode after episode of a 3 year old girl screaming that her Daddy touched her pee-pee? Or anorexics on the verge of death? Or twin heroin addicts? Seriously, who are these people? I give up.

Meanwhile in TV land, JJ Abrams produced six sequential weeks of Lost this fall. I still can't get over the new term, 'fall series finale', but I will let it slide as long as I don't have to endure a repeat every other week. Or one of those dopey synoposis shows they pass off as new, with the voice-over providing a summary of everything I've already seen twice. Hey JJ. Next time Tom Cruise pulls up at 2 am and begs you to direct a movie, you just send him on his way. Send him home with some brochures about the benefits of pychiatric meds while your at it. He so clearly needs them and you have a show to write.

I have to hope we are smarter than that, that we deserve smart entertainment. I guess there's always HBO.

Friday, November 03, 2006

Just this side of Holland

Zack didn't have a bedtime ritual, get tucked into bed every night, until he was four. I would tuck Lexi in, make a trip to the bathroom and head to the couch where I held Zack until he fell asleep, sometime after 10. This was not good parenting; this was a habit formed around having a son born with 'special needs'.

Lexi's years as a toddler were pretty straightforward--she was prone to tantrums, but learned to talk naturally. She asked about the world around her, and I played Adam and named the beasts of the earth. I would say it, she would repeat it. Done and done. I also taught her early that when it's time for bed, she was expected to stay in bed and sleep there all night. And she pretty much ate what was put in front of her. Except tomatoes. She doesn't like tomatoes.

But I soon learned that raising Zack would be different. That he would speak only with the help of professionals and good health insurance. That he had sensory issues and motor skill problems that made eating unpleasant and difficult for him. And that chronic diarrhea, day or night, would make enforcing hard rules about staying in bed difficult. I am ashamed to admit that I once let him cry in his bed for a mighty long time-- trying to teach him or ferberize or grab at normalcy, I'm not sure what--only to give in and find him covered in his own feces. It was gross and heart breaking. The poor guy couldn't tell me what was wrong. I gave up that night on sleeping well for 2 more years, when he gained some bowel control. When the time came, it took weeks for him to adjust to the new ritual. I read quietly in his room until he grew accustomed to sleeping alone. These days, he camps with his grandparents and asks to go to bed when he's tuckered out. He sleeps well.

Except for this week. He had a sinus infection, which was bad enough. He was glued to me for two days. But then he broke out in hives from the antibiotic and the constant trips to the bathroom returned. He's older now, and embarrassed by his need to visit the potty so often. He didn't want to return to school. I tried to reassure him that when he finishes his medicine, he will feel better and the 'poopy' problems will go away. I pray I am right.

But we are both mindful of the path we have been on. I would be lying if I didn't admit that this common side effect of antibiotics scares me. It's hard for me to put down my guard, to relax. He gave me the thumbs up yesterday as the bus pulled away. It helps.

Zack had a great day at school. His teacher reported he was back to being his normal, happy self. This side of 'special', things are looking up.

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Grrr Aargh

Grrr Aargh
Originally uploaded by mama.milton.

I have a little secret. I don't know if it is healthy for a grown woman to admit it but I love Buffy. You know, the slayer. Maybe you missed this cancelled series while you were off doing more important things. That's understandable. But hear me out before you scoff.

I didn't watch Buffy from the start. In 1997, the only TV show I watched was the X-files. I worked weeknights and I watched movies late at night. I wouldn't have watched it anyway; I wasn't impressed by the campy movie.

I think I first caught an episode on FX while I was folding clothes and the boys (Zack and his cousin, Austin) were sleeping. I was deep in the throes of domestic life, overwhelmed with Zack's special needs and I didn't get out much. I was bored and blue. I figured I could use a little diversion.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer, at first glance, is a high school drama centered around a shallow teen girl that happens to be chosen to fight all sorts of undead. That's a fair analysis. But ask any Joss Whedon fan and they will tell you there's more to it--themes of sacrifice, duty and good vs. evil. And don't forget the witty, delicious writing.

So I remain obsessed, jonesing for the next Whedon project. Come back, Mutant Enemy, come back. I'll be waiting.

Monday, October 30, 2006

I'm going as the Incredible Hulk

When I set up this blog a few months ago, I had to decide whether to write under my real name or to use some cheeky pseudonym. There are some advantages to being veiled, chief among them, I could say what I want without being personally accountable for my words. I can be wimpy, not assertive enough, but I think it is good to lay claim to your words, even when they bite. I take stock in making sure I weigh my words carefully--my mug is attached and I don't want to scare the tuna salad out of my folks. They raised me right.

That said, I get crabby sometimes and I have some things to get off my chest. I need to vent. Therefore, I must rant on behalf on mamas everywhere.

I will be the first to admit that I am not a perfect mother. I spent much of my first year holding Lexi in one arm and pulling my hair out with the other. I felt I bit off more than I could chew and inadequate to the task. I read books, prayed and begged for advice from mothers I thought 'got' it, the ones who seemed to have it all together. And you know what, I have become competent. My mothering is not perfect, never easy--but I wake up and muddle my way through. So, when I volunteer at the school, please treat me with respect. I have interrupted my bon-bon schedule to do unpaid work and I don't appreciate it when you scold me like a 6 year old. Come to think of it, don't yell at the kids either. It's ugly and unnecessary. And when my little boy changes his mind, that he still feels icky and really should have stayed home from school after all, please don't chide me. I am trying to teach my kids to make good choices. Yes, I am aware of the fact that we sometimes have to make those choices for them--that's why he missed his cousin's big halloween party and stayed home all weekend. On my lap. I am not an idiot. Like those before me and those traveling with me each day, I am doing the best I can.

Some days my mind swims with fear and guilt that I am all wrong for this job. Could you kindly not chuck me under the bus?

*The author would like to congratulate herself for writing the forementioned post without any bad words. She is making a concerted effort to make her Mom proud and tries to avoid certain choice words that are unsuitable for little Milton ears. She is, however, feeling far less cranky now...

Halloween rerun

Halloween rerun
Originally uploaded by mama.milton.
The Cat and the Bat--Halloween 2005. This picture was taken at New Heights community church, where our friends, the Doyles, attend. I think the highlight of this year's festivities was looking for their pictures to appear on the big screen--although the cake walk is always a crowd pleaser.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Getting cozy with Clive

I have 43 books checked out from the Fort Vancouver library. This is not a grand total; this is the current pile. They are stacked in front of the fireplace, in a basket under the coffee table and next to my bed. I read fiction, picture books, to my kids and until I collapse. And when I don't have a book with me, I read cereal boxes and signs in the doctor's office. I can't help myself. So, I decided that maybe I should start writing blurbs about the books I love. It seems like a natural extension of my compulsive reading habits.

It took me awhile to pick the first book. My favorite books section is bare in my profile because I can't choose. (And I won't tell you which child is my favorite either.) But I can readily name the book that ushered big changes in my life when I read it last year.

Blue Like Jazz, by Donald Miller

Now, don't moan. I know everyone is talking about it and it has all the buzz. I tend to avoid popular titles, especially when they show up at my local WalMart. (Go ahead. Call me a book snob. I can take it.) It is quietly making its way onto the NYT bestseller list, just one notch above Mere Christianity today. There are plenty reviews out there that do this book justice, so I don't feel the need to reinvent the blessed wheel. This is my personal testimony, if you will.

When I finally gave Miller a shot, I had been church shopping for about 5 years--seeking God and trying to find a church home. I was cranky and cynical. My spiritual life stank and I worried that my kids would grow up unchurched and worse, uninterested in God. I picked this book up one Friday night, read it and started attending Imago Dei, where Don attends, that Sunday. I share that story with countless others in the Pacific Northwest. But I believe that if I had read this book half-way around the world, it would have given me hope. Not to give up faith or on God, just because I was a church misfit, lost and disillusioned. We've been at Imago ever since.

Over the past year, my kids have grown to love God. My daughter was baptized over the summer. My family is surrounded by a loving community. All because one guy sat down and wrote down his thoughts.

I have often wanted to tell Don what this book means to me. I don't know what I would say. (I don't go to a lot of author signings for the same reason. I'm such a groupie, silly and awe-struck.) But if I wasn't such a wuss, I would start with 'thank you.'

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Sauvieland 2006

Sauvie Island
Originally uploaded by mama.milton.
When Imago Dei promises to take over a joint, we aren't messing around. After a tough afternoon*, there's nothing better than a trip out to Sauvie Island, just outside of Portland. We took a hayride and trick-or-treated through the corn maize. There was even s'mores. (Although Greg and I are not marshmallow fans. Yuck.) Lexi busted out her own version of Irish/Country dancing on about 14 feet of hay, while Zack threatened to jump, or rather, fall off. Thankfully, there were no injuries, just a sense of how lucky we are to have finally found a church to call our own. We had a great time.

*(Zack needed a change of clothes today at school for the accident that shall remain nameless. He was crushed and tearful, certain that no other 5 year old has miscalculated both the door lock and urgency of the matter. It took dry shoes and a visit with his kind principal to make it through the last 30 minutes of school.)

Sunday, October 22, 2006

And they were swangin'

And they were swangin'
Originally uploaded by mama.milton.
My hubby and I have been casting blame onto each other's respective families for the seriously strange behavior our children exhibit. Clearly we can agree on the fact that they are indeed silly, and perhaps, possessed.

We'll keep 'em.

Friday, October 20, 2006

I love Big Al's

Birthday girl
Originally uploaded by mama.milton.
When I first sent Greg the menu for Lori's birthday party at Big Al's, there was some confusion. I think ilovebigals.com threw him off a little. I can picture him sitting in his office, wondering why I am sending him kinky emails at work.

I had to clarify.

Last night, we celebrated my sister's birthday at the swanky new bowling alley in town. I am not much of a bowler, but the kids are hooked. They had a great time hanging out with their great-grandma, who proved she still has it, and Uncle Dave gave them impromptu lessons.

So, happy birthday Aunt Lori. We hope you had a great day.

Thursday, October 19, 2006


Zack doesn't like it when I am on the computer too long. Especially when the laptop is 'sitting' in his spot. I think he found a solution. My kids fight, a lot. I know this is normal, but don't tell me it's pleasant. I had to snap this picture (and I succeeded this time) before they came to their senses and started poking each other in the eye.

The rest of this post is going to go like this: brag brag brag, brag brag brag, brag brag--you get the picture. And if you don't share our gene pool, I will forgive you for declaring me a prime example of why no one should read mommy blogs, what with the sappiness and endless blather about their genius kids and all. You are excused.

Now on to the highlights from the forementioned conferences:

Zack spent his pre-K years at a special ed preschool and before that, he spent a year in one-on-one speech therapy. He initially qualified for an IEP for delays in speech, fine motor skills and intellectual development. He eventually tested out of the program and was regarded as a 'typically developing' child. I still worried. What would kindergarten bring? Would his struggles with speech resurface as troubles with reading? I got the impression that only time would tell. So far, it appears he is doing fine. Even ahead in many areas. And when his teacher smirked at Zack's answer to 'what makes me special'--"I can do connect-the-dots"--Greg and I shared our own private smile. Little does she know where he has been; little does she know he can independently connect those dots to 150.

Lexi has always been quiet at school, a little reserved. At the beginning of 2nd grade, I wasn't sure if her teacher could have picked her out of a line up--she sorta blended right in. She does what she is supposed to do and I sometimes worry at the end of the day, she will be lost in the shuffle and discouraged. I am sure we are guilty of taking her good manners and willingness to please for granted too. And how long before she realizes that if you really want extra attention, to be bribed for good behavior, all you got to do is let your freak flag fly? Well, I am certain it won't be this year, because this teacher is paying attention--and her praise took us by surprise. She is doing well academically. This is clear. She was also attuned to Lexi's eye for illustration. But when she spoke of Lexi's kindness and patience with other students, that she has been instrumental in helping another little boy succeed, that she shows great leadership skills--we were puffed up and all gloaty inside. I will remember this day when her kindness is lacking with her brother. She is turning out ok, despite me.

I slept good last night.

*This concludes bragfest, October 2006. Be well.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

10 reasons why I am looking forward to the 'holiday season'

It is wrong to talk about the 'holidays', unless it is Halloween, in October. But that season is not far away. Last week, some well-meaning mom quoted how days I had left to shop before Christmas. My head nearly blew up.

When did Christmas become so ugly? And something I actually started to dread? No more, I say. No more! Here's some reasons I hope will make me smile as the days go on:

  1. I am not working in retail this Christmas.
  2. On a related note, I will not be yelled at by beleaguered, evil customers who hate the season and are nonetheless spending money they do not have on things no one needs.
  3. And I won't have to give recommendations to folks who have never been in a bookstore before and have no love for books. (Yes Virginia, there are other authors besides Dan Brown and JK Rowling.)
  4. We are going to my in-laws' llama ranch the week before Christmas. My sister-in-law and nephews are coming up from Poway, CA.
  5. Christmas Eve services and celebrating Advent.
  6. Taking the kids to the Grotto.
  7. Zoolights with Greg's company.
  8. Baking and making crafts with the kids.
  9. Movies.
  10. Hanging out with family and friends, drinking Bailey's and coffee.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Borders blues

I used to be a bookseller. That's the fancy title for working at a bookstore, and it seems everyone has title these days--just ask the barista behind the coffee cart. I happened to love my job, and never was embarrassed to be working in retail. When my kids were younger, it was my outlet, a way to retain a little of my identity. And I was paid to read and talk about books, something I do anyway. My seasonal position lasted for nearly 5 years. I quit this summer when Greg began traveling more and I couldn't justify paying for a sitter late into the evening. For a couple of months, both of us were either at work or alone with the kids. I didn't realize how tired I was and how much I was missing until I called a truce--we were spread too thin.

Still, there are days I miss Borders. I miss the staff. It occurred to me Sunday at church, when I caught up with a former coworker, that I have been avoiding coming in for a cup of coffee, to read magazines I will not buy. I always told myself, especially when it was a tough day, that I would/could quit my job when I was ready to write. It gave me some excuse to hold on to my lofty notions of what that would look like. But to leave a comfortable job means pursuing my dream, alone and without much feedback or approval. That it would be lonely and hard and exciting and challenging.

I am the ex-girlfriend who just can't move on. I had a sure thing, and I was content. I guess not enough time has lapsed between where I was and where I am headed. I don't trust myself to let go yet. But I'll get there.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Pumpkin patch

Here is where the smashing new pictures of our trip to BiZi farms pumpkin patch are supposed to be. I braved a bus of 5 year olds on a splendid fall day and have nothing to show for it. That's not entirely true--we had a grand time and I met me some new friends, the new batch of mamas on their first field trip with their oldest child. So all was not lost, only my pictures.

And if Greg wasn't sound asleep right now, I'd be harassing him for answers. How could this happen? Where are my pictures? I aimed, I shot, I made the kids pose. Boo hoo. On a perfect fall day, I was the mental Mama taking pretend pictures, just like my kids do with my old 35mm.

The only thing different about this photo op was that my real job was watching over 3 kindergarten boys, prone to wandering to the opposite corners of the world. I would take an inventory, snap quickly, and make sure I didn't lose anyone. I guess I can't play photographer and corral boys very well.

And in my world, boys trump pumpkins. A little.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Parting is such sweet sorrow

Or so I hear. Today there were two blog options: you could hear me whine about my cold, or I could tell you about our hand-me-down couch. I know, some options. Gee, it just occurred to me why technorati rates me somewhere in 6 digit number land. Sad, sad. But yet I press on with such optimism...

This couch was bequeathed to us while I was pregnant with Alexis, some 9 years ago. Before that, it had been relegated to my in-laws basement, its glory years long gone. Even then, the arms had worn out and had been carefully patched. When she came to our house, there were no complaints, because there was no couch. And when it occurred to me that I might want a place to sit after I had the baby, ending my 60 hour work weeks, I was grateful for a place to house my hiney. Up to this point, Greg and I sat in our respective rockers, drawing, writing, watching movies, reading--they were perfect. We didn't have a kitchen table either because we rarely ate at home and obviously, we didn't entertain much. Funny thing is, I didn't even feel any need for any of these things before I became a mom.

Lately, I feel differently about my old couch. I'm kind of a no-nonsense person, and the couch serves her purpose. But we do have friends over now; I would like to entertain more. I think we have outgrown our castoffs.

So thanks for the years, old girl. Thanks for providing a semi-soft spot for family to sleep and for kids to practice headstands. We'll remember opening our wedding gifts on you, and that Lexi got her first facial rugburn upon you. You've served us well.

Now go away.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Creepy crawly

I'm sure my neighbors love me in the morning. All summer I held a morning curfew on the kids, keeping their hullabaloo all to myself. But school has started and all bets are off. Any given morning, rain or shine, they are outside around 8 am. I remind them of being considerate of the people who may still be sleeping. (I used to think this morning monologue fell on deaf ears, but now I realize that Zack, who wakes up early every day, simply can't imagine a world where people sleep past 6 am.) It's a foggy this morning, and a little cold, so I snuck back into the house to grab another cup of coffee. That's when the screaming began. Loud perils of 'MOOOMMMM, MMMOOOMMM' echoed from the driveway. (See, the speech therapy worked, good M sounds.) What now? My Grandma is in the hospital, Greg has pneumonia and my Mom told me this morning that she is experiencing pain in her tweaked knee akin to childbirth (which is a gold standard for rating pain in our family. My Mom and I both had back labor, not the 'it's like cramps' labor, for the record.) I really would like the rest of our small extended family to stay intact. I step outside, berating myself for leaving them unsupervised, as if I am this omnipotent being who stops bike accidents by supreme oogling.

It turns out there is no blood or broken bones. It's the exquisite spider web they found, the first, they agree, of the fall.

Isn't it amazing, Mom.

Just look at the workmanship.

Suddenly it's like Christmas in October. And I am not surprised. I love this season. I love the webs and spiders. (I am under the impression that orb weavers stay outdoors to catch juicy morsels, so they are ok by me.) I love pumpkins and their respective patches even more. My love for pumpkins borders on obsession and I can't explain it. It makes me wonder how many other odd things we are passing on to our kids. Greg and I love fiction, fantasy worlds and creepy creatures. They have the complete set of Lord of the Rings action figures. Zack was Frodo for Halloween when he was 2. He couldn't talk, but he had heard the trilogy by then. Lexi plays vampire slayer and can name all the characters from Buffy the Vampire Slayer. So when the kids aren't screaming for me at the bus stop, I wait for the phone call. You know, the one that starts with, "Mrs. Milton, we have some concerns..." It's bound to happen.

Monday, October 02, 2006

Proud Mama

I have worn many titles since I became a Mama. I have been 'That's-not-my-Progeny-licking-the-QFC-floor" Mama. (I don't think anyone noticed that Lexi and I were wearing matching jackets on this oh-so-delightful trip to the store. Right?!) Lexi says it was because she was a dog. I am not sure how often you can use that excuse, dearheart, but watching you lap the frozen food aisle clean was a painful sight. (Before you ask why I didn't stop her, it wasn't entirely because I was a hapless parent. Zack was 4 days old and I had mastitis to boot. The licking began right as the cashier was ringing as up. I broke into a sweat, not sure if I should run to her, or stay with the newborn. I guess my postpartum brain figured she wasn't in too much danger of being snatched, what with the crazy dog behavior and all. I think the episode of joy ended with an ugly tantrum as the sweet puppy morphed into a stubborn 3 year old and a solemn vow that I would not being leaving my house again. Ever.)

Not that I got to keep my word because Zack had a lot of health problems when he was two and it became clear that he was delayed in his development. This meant many appointments and speech therapy--something I like to remember as the 'If-I-have-to-watch-my-sweet-son-struggle-to-say-MOREMARBLES-in-speech-therapy, I-will-surely-croak' Mama. I am amazed and grateful for what speech therapy did for Zack. And I am certain practicing making the 'em' sound produced 'mama', something I had waited for a long time. But watching him struggle through these exercises for hours was excruciating for me. And I am afraid to admit, terribly boring. I am sure if he could have spoke, he would have voiced his displeasure as well.

Last Friday night was a cause for celebration. I was supposed to get together for a girls' night with some friends. Greg was scheduled to be out-of-town that night, and I couldn't seem to line up a babysitter. So I brought my kids along. They are the oldest of the kids born to this particular set of mamas, and I hoped that as such, they could handle watching Curious George downstairs and playing with toys while I caught up with my friends. Maybe they sensed my desperation for grownup time. Maybe they have matured. Maybe they were just sick of hanging out with me too. They didn't make a peep. Better yet, there was no sibling bloodshed. Zack ended up crashing out and Lexi sat quietly watching a Disney channel movie. I felt sorta bad that she was awake and alone. But mainly I felt proud. I was a 'proud' Mama.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Learning curve

Ah, I am actually writing a post. You know, the whole point to my blog. I spent hours, this past sunny weekend, working on both my sites, trying to figure out how the magic happens. I grew up in the late 80's. I am here to report I learned nothing useful in college, those many years ago, that pertains to the computer in my lap. Simple tasks are slow going. And the jargon, oh the jargon. You, the audience I will have once I figure out how to syndicate this puppy, would pity me, perhaps even shun me if you when how pathetic I really am at this stuff.

I also added a dopey picture to both sites. When scrolling through our family albums, it is clear who is snapping the shots. I didn't have many to choose from, yet I found one I could live with and cropped it, and wahla, there I am. I look a little tipsy in it, but it's just me being happy I guess because I was quite sober on the night in question. Greg has promised to help me create some new picture, you know, of my eye or something. See, I am catching on.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Prevailing westerlies

Since school started a few weeks ago, I have noticed a big change in our 8 year old daughter, Lexi. Up until now, this is the girl who begs to go to school with a triple digit fever and vomiting, promising something along the lines of 'I'll try to puke only in the bathroom' or some other nonsense. But after one short week, she stated she is really tired of third grade. Oh, and she looked forward to when it ends. These statements were coupled with crying jags and irritability, in mother and child. (And I postponed my attempt to give up the java. I can only take so much.) I know she is entering into puberty, not uncommon these days to start earlier than my generation did. I won't go into details, as I don't want to tell too much about my very private girl, but change is afoot, and much too soon for this mama. I have been digging in my past, searching for ways to manage these outbursts and mood swings. Who knew I'd be employing my retail management skills with my kids? When dealing with a hostile customer, I often found it helpful to keep my tone as level and calm as possible, in effort to keep the ugly situation from escalating. When dealing with my daughter, I try to remain sane and understand her feelings. This can be difficult. Near as I can tell, she was angry at me one morning this week for walking near her, creating a wind current that caused her eye to hurt. Really. Apparently, I did this terrible deed on purpose. I think. So I try to put myself in her shoes, or in this case, use major sarcasm, giving her advance warning that I may walk through my kitchen again; preparing her for the loud thud the breakfast plate may make as it is placed before her. She managed to laugh and I didn't even have to give her a worthless coupon or 1-800 number, so she could rat me out to my boss. Although if I had a big boss, I think I would ask for a raise.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Corporate prayer

I started attending Imago Dei Community with my kids last summer, marking my return to church. I have had my share of negative church experiences, so pedestrian in nature that it probably doesn't warrant mention, but I doubt that will keep me from writing about them the rest of my life. I don't think capital C church is the 'evil empire'. I stayed away for a decade because I was heart broken and I couldn't get over it. Believe me, I tried. It took me about another five years to find a church home. I finally feel like I belong somewhere, attend regularly and even volunteer sometimes.

I still find myself hesitant to commit to church events. Some of what keeps me home is learning to manage my new life with chronic health problems--I no sooner say I am going to something, and I don't feel well enough to follow through. It's also awkward the first few times. I don't know what to expect when I attend a Good Friday service or my daughter volunteers to read at Advent for hundreds of people. The kids and I just push through until we become familiar I guess. So when I decided to attend a corporate prayer night Monday, I didn't know what it would look like. Guys in ties? Powerpoints? Corporate threw me off a bit. I was pleased it was an interactive event, until I read the word 'confession' on the program. It sounded scary and I started thinking maybe I could quietly leave. I stayed.

One of the portions of the night was focusing on the heaviness of sin in our lives, the way we often feel no relief from the burden of sin. We dipped our hands in black paint and stained a sketch of Christ with our prints. Instead of immediately washing our hands, we sat with wet paint, the discomfort. We later went into another room where we washed up and took communion, being clean again.

I haven't done anything like that in years, an exercise meant to deepen my faith, to open me up to prayer. I felt like I was going through the motions-- that I was yearning for something more, something I couldn't quite reach. But I was there.


I spent several days alone at the end of the summer. Greg has been traveling with his new job, but that leaves me playing single Mom-- more work, but less dinner planning. But in August, I found myself sans kids for the first time in 8 years. That kind of freedom is something I have often longed for, that former self, especially when my babies were colicky. But after the initial quiet, and a little extra sleep, I was somewhat at a loss. Sure, I could read, but I read compulsively, daily with or without kids. I treated myself to a movie, went for walks. Over the first weekend alone, I sat in quiet. Motherhood has provided a template for my daily round, and like it or not, I have grown accustom to the frantic demands of raising a family. It was hard for me to just be still and calm. I guess while I have been clamoring for a little 'peace and quiet', I have constructed a world that leaves room for neither. It was uncomfortable.

Soon my family came home, and I was thrilled to see them. I felt a bit more patient; a little kinder. I could hear my own thoughts. I felt more deliberate, more centered.

I am still impatient with the quiet at times, now that both kids are gone half the day. But I could get used to it.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

'Tis possible

Summer came. Summer left. There were no posts. Like so many things, I was thinking about my blog often and reading about HTML, something I know nothing about, but not writing. In fairness, my beloved laptop was out of commission most of the summer. We have another computer in the 'computer room', a room used as a crap-catcher. If I don't know what to do with it, it goes there. I eventually cleaned it out a couple of weekends ago, when my husband, Greg, took our kiddos camping, leaving me with oodles of free time. It's a bit sad that I cleaned the whole time, but oh so necessary.

So the kids are in school, at least half the day now, so I have no excuses for myself. I look forward to getting fancy down the line, adding better features as I learn more, but for now, I am writing, moving forward.

Thursday, June 01, 2006


I am trying to de-clutter our abode. I'm not all that interested in housekeeping, and I didn't inherit the cleaning gene (see exhibit A, my little sister Lori). But as our family grows older, I find it would be good to be able to find everything we need. The paper alone that comes through our home astounds me. So because I love to read, because summer is coming, and because my sweet 8 year daughter is a side-tracked wonder, just like me, I am white knuckling it to order.

I am realizing the clutter in my house, and my garage, is not all because I am lazy, or inept. Not completely anyway. It speaks to an attitude I have long held that the managing of our household is not Important, or Interesting.

My new approach works two ways: I will work on donating outgrown items, going through closets, organizing our daily round AND I will stop bringing junk into my house. I will be more deliberate in my choices-what to keep and what to bring in.

It's a start.

Monday, May 29, 2006


I have been fiddling around with the idea of blogging. It's what I do. I ponder things way too long instead of just taking action. (No nike plugs here.)

So, I don't know how much time I will have to blog. Maybe it will take over my other pet obsessions/projects, but at least I will have an outlet for the thoughts that clutter my mind while I am minding my clutter.