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Sunday, December 31, 2006

Resolute

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

Packing

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.

Love,
Aunt Sissy

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Santa

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.

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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'.

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