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Thursday, January 31, 2008

top 13 reasons I am not seeking re-election

(Cue something Presidential. Or better yet, Vice Presidential...)

I am back between volunteering in each of the kids' classes today; call me marathon mama. It's what I like best, working one-on-one with students, seeing my kids' proud faces when I walk in their classroom. Even Lexi doesn't disown me quite yet but the clock may be ticking.

I gave my PTA board position a go. There have been a few sweet moments and I have certainly learned a lot about education in my state, local concerns. But it's not for me.

  • *First, there's the logistics: We may be relocating to our neighboring state this summer. I don't like to talk about it.
  • *Receiving emails WITH TOO MANY CAPS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!AND DON'T EVEN GET ME STARTED ON THE EXCLAMATION POINTS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!ALL THE TIME!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! (Please stop shouting...)
  • *Other general drama and chaos. Dare I say that some people crave it?
  • *Dare I say that I do not? I like my wits about me.
  • *Blogging 'commitments'.
  • *Nasty phone calls in the morning. (There was only one, but it left an impression.)
  • *I'm not a single Mom, but I play one at parties.
  • *I'm focusing on my health, my friends, my family, my writing.
  • *The neglected housework alone threatens to swallow me whole. (Does Roomba have a brother?)
  • *Mandatory meetings beginning 25 minutes late, leaving me antsy.
  • *I'd rather focus on being an advocate where I think I can make a difference: CASA?
  • *Because I am a bit lazy. Because Stephanie isn't running again.
  • *The #1 reason: My kids want me in their class. At recess. At lunch. I don't want to miss my chance.

I'm not filled with regret. I'm full of focus.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

two thoughts before choir

Here's a link to the recipe I mentioned last week for fabulous Coconut Banana Bread. With rum!!(Because I am a vegan-baking wannabe fool, I used: Stonyfield soy yogurt, vegan 'butter' and 1/2 carton of lite firm mori nu tofu, blended smooth with a couple of tablespoons of water instead of the eggs.)

I also wanted to turn your attention to a little local girl named Charlotte with Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis. (Her older sister attends preschool with my nephew.)

I remember seeing Tottie - isn't that a great nickname? - at the pool this summer, before I read her mom's blog, before she was diagnosed. She was playing with her dolly, giving me a shy grin. (Her blog is now private.)

She started a IV steroid treatment at a nearby children's hospital today; it can't be fun.

I wish it wasn't necessary.

So, if you have a chance, between the baking and rum chugging (yes, I can see you), stop by and wish them well. I have to believe kind words, even from strangers, help. Heal, even.

Monday, January 28, 2008

whoa. disagreement.

(I thought I'd let him go first, as my guest non-blogger. Scratch that. As the guest blogger I'm pretending to be...)

Greg: So, we go out for drinks with the Spencers and everything was great. I settled in with my Icee and popcorn and all was good with the world. Lisa insisted on dragging me to see No Country for Old Men, 'claiming' that I'd like it. Like Fargo. And the first 2/3 were pretty cool. But the ending sucked. The sympathetic main...What, honey? Fine, no spoilers. But believe me when I say it sucked. I don't know what my wife was thinking. And I never even watched Fargo, at least not all of it.

Lisa: I've been wanting to see No Country for Old Men since the brilliant Joshilyn Jackson praised it and called it the one movie to see this year. And when Ms. Jackson talks, I listen. Plus, it's garnering Oscar buzz, so became a must see.

I thought Greg would enjoy it too, since he liked Fargo. (Yes, he did too see it.)

So the film ends and I'm breathless, retracing the lines, letting Tommy Lee Jones' words sink in. Greg stands up and moans. MOANS.

I guess I see his point of view, and clearly he had a more satisfying, happier ending in mind. But really, some stories just don't let us off the hook so easily.

(The Kite Runner left me raw the weekend before - I cried during three scenes.)

I'll screen my picks better for his next foray; more action, less nuisance. But I'm not too worried if he complains again.

He's apt to claim he never went at all.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

anything unattempted remains impossible

Not bad for a church sign.

I didn't have a chance to write a proper post this weekend so we are stuck with my roadside observations and this realization: Taking my kids to Red Robin after they beg sweetly ask is tantamount to swinging by a feed store for a salt lick.

Sweet Moses, young offspring. Save some seasoning salt for the other kiddies...

{And how did it get to be Sunday night already?}

Friday, January 25, 2008

abject failure, followed by redemption and a little rum

When SusieJ invited me to join WoYoPracMo, I thought surely I could practice yoga every day in January. It's January. Time for Renewal! Time to Meditate!

And then I visited my in-laws the first week, and I did makeshift yoga without my mat followed by the neck injury that we do not speak about.

Does watching yoga on FitTv while reading blogs count? I didn't think so.

(I couldn't even embed a cool clip from the site so we could all pretend it was me.)

****

I played Chef Lisa yesterday. I stuck dinner in a crock pot and tried my hand at new recipes while I watched Far From Heaven. I converted a recipe for Coconut Banana Bread, with Lime Glaze into a vegan version, and I am proud to report: It worked. (I'm allergic to eggs, so it's been years since I last had banana bread.)


vegan coconut-rum banana bread, with lime glaze
It's tastier than it looks. Taking appetizing shots of my masterpiece is harder than I thought...

Vegan baking somehow feels like the appropriate penance for my lack of Om. Until you see the secret ingredient.

So it's really Coconut-Rum Banana Bread, with Lime Glaze. Mmmm.

I also baked egg-ridden Toffee-Mocha Brownies for my man because he was denied both candleblowing-out, wish-making and 'sweet nothings' here for his birthday, back on January 2nd.

We sang happy birthday to him, more punishment than anything else and then they dug into brownies with ice cream on a random Thursday night.

Lisa and Greg

Have I mentioned how much we love this guy?

Greg and the school-bound kiddos

Thursday, January 24, 2008

my book preference, justified

why books are better

I found this warning in the packing debris, while Zack was playing his fabulous new Spongebob game - something he bought with his own money.

Just another reason why books are better. Like I needed one...

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

boyish charm

boyish charm
The new shirt from Mason Spencer; they both have a lot of boyish charm.

Today I will tell you that Lexi is doing a fine job, learning her times tables or rather demonstrating that she already knew them (I believe this is a lack of confidence, lack of practice). I thought I would start there, head off the sibling rivalry, alive and well here at the Casa Milton.

Today I want to tell you that Zack is standing in the wings, learning this stuff with such ease, with such zeal, it makes me dizzy. He loves flashcards, loves numbers.

And it occurred to me why I love introducing new math concepts to him, watching him gobble it up.

Zack had developmental dypraxia; no amount of effort on my part helped him walk, helped him learn to talk. I felt so frustrated.

Early on, doctors and social workers would ask the question: Do you speak to him, interact with him?

I wanted to scream, and shout - because unlike Zack, I was chock full of words - and explain how Lexi talked early, so naturally.

Zack spent three months, early in speech therapy, trying to say 'more marbles' so he could play a game with a specialist, to teach him how to say the 'm' sound. Three painful months of effort and frustration.

So now that something comes to him light as a feather, I find myself amazed and thankful.

Some days are sweet.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

ramble, ramble toil and trouble

My brain, it is empty. It wants to write something charming, but it can't for bona fide, medical reasons. My resources are tapped:



So, now that you know I am all out of clever, stay tuned for how I spent our Monday off.

After doing a mountain of laundry, we went to the Kids' Club, a place to run around and scream when it's mighty frickin' cold outside. Well, the kids run and I read and sort paperwork, surrounded by popcorn, diaper bags and howling babies.

I'm that devoted to my stack of books.

We came home and Lexi started her anti-mother campaign when I said 'no' to a playdate, right before dinner. I reminded her that Greg was leaving again in the morning, so it was important to me that we were all home.

Which, of course, was NO FAIR. And stupid. And worthy of high drama and sadness.

I let her melt into a puddle and made a delicious Indian dinner, complete with naan. (I didn't make it, ok. I picked it up at my beloved TJs.)

I watched her mood change as she saw dinner; she came around.

I made my plate and sighed. I just can't be everything to everyone, stretch myself across this family schedule.

{You've seen my brain. I might snap.}

Monday, January 21, 2008

the white stripes called and they want their colors back

It ended with a hot shower and a little shampoo at the hotel; towels I didn't wash. I opened the drapes to a glass elevator, kitty corner and on the move.

symantec holiday party
Greg and Lisa, before the holiday party at Symantec.

{I don't think Charlie could see into my candy store, but I closed up shop, just in case.}

night out; symantec party
New black dress. I think I love it.

Greg and I could stand to get away more often.

Friday, January 18, 2008

head towards the light

When the doctor came in and reviewed my chart, she questioned why I was lifting weights in the first place when I have an underlying connective tissue disease.

And I said: 'It's the sweet gym aroma and boredom and my lust for pain that keeps me coming back.'

(Fine. I didn't say that. I grimaced.)

It was the proverbial straw to a week of taking myself very seriously. Taking the blame for a fluke neck injury; worrying myself over stupid standardized tests.

way too serious

All week, I've been trying to keep my normal schedule while my neck heals. I've been putting pressure on my kids to do math drills with me. I've wiped too many frustrated tears.

Greg's absence hung in the air.

Then Lexi uttered the words I dread: 'I'm just bad at math.' It was a new refrain from her lips, echoing my own despair as a kid. I couldn't bear it.

Her confidence was needlessly tattered.

So I decided to jump off my crazy train. I took a nap yesterday. I decided I can't solve the education question overnight.

lighten up

And we found our sense of humor, buried under the weight of a long week.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

dvd blues

We brought these home; they didn't hit the spot. The plots were inplausible, annoying. Talk about some good actors losing their way.













I was spoiled by a season of amazing cinema.


















I'm ruined.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

crunching numbers; or I'm bringing algorithms back

Turns out, I can type on muscle relaxers. Look at me.

I made it through Lexi's first choir rehearsal of the year last night, reading in the senior center foyer while Zack lapped up Ricky Ricotta's Mighty Robot vs. the Uranium Unicorns from Uranius. Thankfully, he hasn't heard any crude jokes about this far away planet, or he wouldn't be able to contain himself.

I've been edgy since school began again, displeased with the curriculum in our district. (This is no secret, and while we are visiting my Education Angst, let's all wave at the WASL - the bane of Washington schools.)

Now granted, I sound like Mrs. Bluehair, railing against new math like it's the work of the devil, although clearly it leaves my kids possessed. I am willing to believe that they are gaining some deeper thinking skills and boy howdy, my kids are well versed in demonstrating several strategies. But when did I sign up for this: It is the parents' responsibility to teach the times tables and it is up to the parents to teach basic math skills, if you think they need it. My kids do not know how to borrow. They don't know how to carry, yet they earn top grades and I hear nothing but good things at conferences.

So, I find myself questioning the whole system. I can teach my kids - I am capable and willing - but not every household can. This troubles me, drives me nuts.

And as for my family, when I consider relocating for Greg's job, it has become clear to me that my kids will be behind, because the testing system is different, the curriculum is different.

I'm not sure how to press for changes in the state, while I work on salvaging my kids' education.

What would you do?

I took off with one of his pictures

Greg's ride

Here's a shot Greg took of his Subie, down by the lake. (I love the sign behind the car: NOISE LIMITS ON LAKE STRICTLY ENFORCED.)

More Wordless Wednesday for everyone.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

pain in the neck

I finally dragged my sorry self to urgent care this morning, after the kids went to school 2 hours late because of icy roads. (I didn't see that coming.) Noon came and went and I left with some muscle relaxers and pain pills for my neck that I wrenched lifting weights followed by cleaning last week, making it the least sexy injury of all time. (She technically called it a sprain.)

I'd tried everything first: my miracle balls, swimming,whining, yoga, stretching, whining, hot tub, massage, ice, heat, and more whining. Still no relief. So, after a long night of shifting and sighing and Greg shifting and sighing to accommodate my pathetic state, it was time to see someone.

While I was there, a cheerful receptionist came over to see me and knew me by name, or at least as Zack's Mom. It was none other than a mom I had known from his preschool, the mother of one of his secret early girlfriends. We used to chat under the covered area, waiting for our kiddos, keeping an eye on the other young children in our care - we both were daycare providers.

Within minutes it was clear that her life had changed since the last time we spoke. She was recently divorced, back to work. She paused when she said this and I started to say I was sorry to hear it, but really, looking at her, I wasn't. There was a lightness to her I had never seen in the two years we had parked side by side. And while I certainly wouldn't celebrate a family splitting up, listening to her greet an elderly patient, watching her face light up when she talked about going back to school, well, something good came from this divorce.

I listened to her laugh on the phone while I waited for my turn, for my name to be called.

I often fear big changes, even good ones. Maybe I should knock it off and let my life unfold.

It sure looked good on her.

*****
The muscle relaxers are starting to kick in and I'm feeling a bit sleepy. I'll be by soon, leaving you incoherent comments. If I can stay awake.

Monday, January 14, 2008

expectations

Cristi is my sister's BFF, but I like to lay claim to her too. When Lexi was born, she lent her nursing expertise and smothered us with kindness, when I was overwhelmed with a fresh batch of postpartum depression and a colicky baby, far away from my family.

She is expecting her first baby in early March, and we can't wait to meet him.




(I was ever so close to saying Terrible Things. Like 'motherhood is hard' and 'eating your young is a perfectly acceptable position'. I had that morning, a terrible mothering morning. But I kept these things to myself, and saved them for you. Don't you feel lucky?)

Saturday, January 12, 2008

something holy this way comes

I was about to recount a week of twisters and mall visits - the horror- when my kids blew through the house, squeaking and squawking. And it's my fault. I figured I would make good on my 'sure, we can have donuts some Saturday' promise today and now I am paying for it.

(Tell me why their stuffed animals and baby dolls can't play nice. They are always crying, deprived of happy endings. Such drama.)

So, Greg's company holiday party is next weekend and I have rotated all the dresses I own at previous occasions and even pilfered my sister's amazing wardrobe in the past so I needed to find a new get-up, pronto. Something sassy, but appropriate for a grown woman. (This is not the prom.) Something that doesn't shout: The PTA meeting is right this way.

And did I mention it needed to be flattering and not too pricey?

I rambled through the racks and ended up with a new pair of jeans that I love. Mission unaccomplished. I would be disappointed that I wasted a perfectly windy day at the mall, if it wasn't for the Jean Miracle.

The holy, holy Jean Miracle, right up there with Jesus pastries and weeping walls.

I knew there was a God.
*****

Friday, January 11, 2008

Mother Talk book review: Body Drama: Real Girls, Real Bodies, Real Issues, Real Answers by Nancy Amanda Redd















Lexi must have been four when she first started complaining about her eyebrows, the eyebrows that I had adored since infancy, that weaved what was on her mind.

"'Everybody' thinks they are too big, like callapitters."

Of course, 'everybody' was one little girl-body, teasing her. So began our talks.

It's hard to raise a daughter to feel comfortable in her own skin, to rise above the onslaught on images we see everyday. I've tried to explain airbrushing and hair extensions, when Lexi can't figure out how the tween stars grow their hair out, seemingly overnight. I try to be matter of fact about puberty. But I get the feeling that there is only so much she wants to hear from her dear ol' kooky Mom; there's only so much health class is going to cover.

And just when I am coming up empty, I saw Mother Talk's call for reviewers for Nancy Redd's new title: Body Drama: Real Girls, Real Bodies, Real Issues, Real Answers. It's a comprehensive body guide for young women - scratch that - I got some interesting facts from it and I consider myself to be quite the medical geek.

Here's the thing: it might make you giggle or feel uncomfortable. There are nekkid ladies of all shapes and sizes, colors and tattoos; there's no mistaking the tasteful shots from down under. (Do you know how hard I have tried to write a sentence about vulvas (vulvi? no, I think it's vulvae?) without using the word 'spread', or some other immature term?)

Better yet, the book is funny, sassy unlike the stuffy filmstrips that informed my adolescence. I searched through the index and found little missing: third nipples, urinary tract infections, cellulite, skin care, sweat - you name it and have a question and there's a concise, snappy answer. (Ms. Redd calls on Dr. Angela Diaz, from the Mount Sinai Adolescent Medical center in NYC for professional medical advice.)

And if this Miss America contestant and Harvard grad can ease any concerns for my daughter, I welcome it on my shelf.



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Thursday, January 10, 2008

on the move

After bad dreams and choking on my sheets, I pulled my whiny butt out of bed and got hasty. Kept moving.

The grey clouds outside my window taunted me, to retreat with tea. But I kept going. My friend couldn't make it to the gym, but, well, I didn't go either, but I pressed on.

I swept and dusted and climbed on chairs, counting the dust rings from months of apathy and neglect.

When I ran out of David Sedaris CDs, I turned to the pundits, railing about Election, 2008.

(I must stop here to point out that I haven't found my candidate yet. Maybe it would help if they were campaigning here, courting my vote, petting my head. Procuring my vote while I regale them with the spiritual ramifications of Buffyverse. I think I fell asleep just then. Told you I am sleep deprived.)

I whipped up breakfast for supper, always a hit with the kids, and we waited for Greg to drive home.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

this little piggy

this little piggy
When my sister asked me what I wanted for my birthday, probably in July, I mentioned I'd been wishing I had inherited the seamstress gene so I could make myself an Olivia apron.

Because I love that piggy so.

And like magic, because she sews and is organized, here it is, just as I hoped.

I can't imagine a better gift.

Because I love that sister so.

(Looking for truly wordless Wednesdays: right this way.)

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

it can't all be wedding cake

So much for breathing deeply; I'm vying for Ms. Peckish, 2008.

Maybe it was the cluster headaches, or being out of town recently. Maybe it's ineffective school practices or Greg on the road again.

I have a sneaking suspicion it is that dissatisfaction, creeping towards anger. Better said: Sometimes my laid back nature and optimistic disposition keeps me treading water. Hoping for better. Waiting until I can't deny I need to make some changes.

It's not bad news. My blood is flowing; I'm motivated.

Ms. Plucky has a ring to it...
-----------
{The Underdog put me in a better mood this morning. Thanks Dana.}

Monday, January 07, 2008

no dogs were injured during this rant

When one of my Grandma's beloved beagles chopped down on my nose, bit me hard and made me cry, I knew I would be to blame. I must have looked at it wrong, or spoke in the wrong tone. Something. Never mind the fact that I was a kid, and loved the stupid dog and did nothing to harm it. I just remember we were sharing a moment - he was looking me in the eye - and tried to eat my face.

My baby pictures were soon replaced by pictures of show dogs.

I think it's fair to say I'm carrying with me some baggage.

Greg's parents are animal people: they raise and show llamas, have 4 cats and 3 large dogs. The newest dog, a standard poodle, travels with them; they adore him. But he wasn't used to kids in his house, making kid noises, carrying kid toys. He was jumpy, and later, pushy with the kids, pulling on Zack's sweatshirt to move him around.

Poor Zack. He's afraid of dogs, and no amount of reassurance helped, especially when the dog had a good 20 pounds on him.

I had to choke back a bitter laugh when he was being instructed to be the alpha dog, to be the pack leader. Like he's Cesar Millan, age 6.

I woke up the first morning we were there, angry. My whole life I've tolerated pesky pets, taken second place, been instructed on my failings, being a beta dog and all.

I sat in bed and it came to me: I just don't care. It's not my thing. I care, deeply, profoundly, about being a strong woman; a treasured wife, a tender mom. And while I really don't wish any dog ill - step off PETA, I don't - I'm sick of feeling like there is something wrong with me because I don't want to spend my days, using a deep voice, asserting myself.

I suck at being the top dog. It's unpopular in my family circles, but there it is.

I can live with it.

Sunday, January 06, 2008

look what I got


look what I got
Originally uploaded by mama.milton
I just finished The Memory Keeper's Daughter and started What the Dead Know when this juicy book arrived.

Can't wait to dive in.

{Thanks, Mrs. G by way of Derfwad. I think you are swell.}

Saturday, January 05, 2008

pssst. it's me.

I just put some dinner in the oven - can you believe my family still expects to eat? - so I have a few minutes to spend with my laptop, with you. Oh, dear internet people that are not imaginary friends, I missed you.

I missed your posts. I missed complaining writing. I missed google.

I am one big techie, blog-loving, solitary girl.

no spitting

Don't get me wrong. They are lovely creatures; it was just a long week.

kids with the llamas
I took these on the first day, before the skies opened up and there was some flooding, trees down.
cantrall buckley park
The kids and I walked to the park where Greg and I traded our 'I dos'.

But I cannot tell a lie: I spent four days trying to bribe/smother/convince/quell two energetic kids in small spaces - around the family, around the skittish new dog, around Greg's conference calls and don't forget inside the car.

I might hide in the closet, until Monday. Is that so wrong?

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

your determination will bring you much success

jan

Well, we're piling in the car for a road trip this morning, bleary eyed but able. We will be spending the week with Greg's family. Stay tuned for llama hijinks! (They have a llama and alpaca ranch. There will be a lot of frolicking in the hay, which sadly isn't what you are picturing.)

I may not be by your *places* much this week, so I will say it now: Happy New Year internet friends. I hold you in my heart, and wish you all the joy this year can muster up.

(I promise I will not be this mushy all year long; don't puke on your shoes, just yet.)