Tuesday, December 29, 2009


Ok, people. This is verging slightly on the absurd.

She's supposedly "lost" another tooth.

Although, I'm seriously considering raiding her room for some hidden pliers at this point. This makes #5!! Three of which she managed to expel within the last TWO weeks! And she's only 6! Somehow, I just don't think that math is quite right.

Gonna have to stash some extra cash around the house. Or start writing IOUs. Or maybe just convince the Tooth Fairy that there's really nothing wrong with a quarter.


For the last couple of weeks we've had some strange little cold spells here in Northern Cali. Enough so that we actually had to plug in the little space heater, even. (Which should tell you a whole lot if you know anything about me at all.)

But, anyway, with something like 4,000+ strings of lighted garland hung throughout the house, I mean, really, it wasn't gonna take much more than a few seconds to blow a fuse.

So, every few minutes, all the lights and TV and heater would just suddenly go off. And after the first 3 times of that happening, and the kids screaming, and the chaos of everyone running around, and the scrambling for flashlights, they finally became so desensitized that they'd just kind of nonchalantly say over their shoulder, "Mom, we blew a fuse again," and I'd scoop up the flashlight and head out to the garage to reset the fuse.

So then we're on our way to southern Cali to spend a couple days with family when driving through a sudden and unexpectedly very dark tunnel in Pasadena, Chago, who's busily playing his Leapster and thoroughly engrossed in his new Batman game, says without even looking up, "Mom, we blew a fuse again."

Monday, December 28, 2009


Just your average pan de polvo and tamale ingredient run. But with the Mema around (and my all-new handy dandy fancy schmancy FLIP), our little ordinary events are being captured left and right:

And in case you can't hear it, there at the end, as Chago is leaning in to slide the payment card, the machine is saying over and over, "Unexpected object in the bagging area. Unexpected object in the bagging area."

Uh, yeah. That would be my son. Welcome to my world.

Sunday, December 27, 2009


Watching The Cat From Outerspace and the kids were oohing and ahhing over the main character's inventions. So, naturally, they both decided it was time to do some inventing of our own.

And, you know, right up there with "Uh-oh!", "Mama, I wanna help" and "Look, Mama, I made breakfast," the phrase, "Let's do some experiments!" just terrifies me to my very core!!!

So, I dug out some activity books hoping to impose just a little bit of control, and the kids found a couple of experiments that Mema and I agreed had only very remote possibilities of resulting in food on the ceiling or lava on the floor. Maybe.


So, the first one Saia tried was called Invisible Skin, which essentially involved drenching her hands in vegetable oil and then immersing them in water so that she could see how the oil coating protected her skin from the cold water, kinda like a polar bear's skin protects it from the frigid elements.

Her second one involved putting a couple of different drops of food coloring into a bowl of milk and then adding a drop of detergent to each to watch how it made the color disperse and interact throughout the bowl. It actually looked a little like a
kaleidescope. :)


Chago, on the other hand, decided that nothing in the books would do and preferred to come up with his own. [And a great fear ran through the house.]

But after a few stern "I don't THINK so"s from Mama, he settled on a safe and [hopefully] less messy cauliflower test. The picture to the left shows his proposed ingredients, his hypothesis, and his results.

You'll notice at the very bottom, he added that he made broccoli, which is exactly what his cauliflower looked like when it came out of the green dye. :)

And then for the next twenty minutes, he raided the fridge for any other possible items to test, from apples to marshmallows, simultaneously confirming his hypothesis and, apparently, satisfying his snack attack.

And, finally, I carved out a star on the leftover half apples so they could dip into the remaining mush of dye and use as stamps for the next half hour.

All in all, a very successful (read: no permanent damage) experimental Sunday.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

THE 39 (thousand) STEPS

At least that's what it felt like. We've been on our feet All. Day. Long. And I'm exhaaaaaauuuuusted!!

But she's still going like the Energizer bunny. (Shopping the day after Christmas sales from dawn to dusk to re-wardrobe the Mema for the new year.)

This is one of her FA-VO-RITE purchases. It's an Anne Klein. And we got it for less than $22 at The Rack. She was THRILLED!!! (I know, I know, for all that chilly weather down in Texas. Hey, they got some flurries this year. That makes it a completely legitimate find!!!)

But it was a long, long, long, long day. And I was running on only one chai. And as much as I was DYING to shop for me, I managed to stay focused and not pick up a single thing -- well except for that 4-ft gilded wreath that I totally impulse bought -- no, literally, it was right there in the check out line, right next to the chocolate candy and angels on a keychain. It barely even fit in the trunk of Amy's car.

But we headed home after about 7 very successful hours with bags and bags and bags for Mom, and she was grinning from ear to ear with all the great deals we found.

And then we STILL had hours to go, as we had to now rush to make it home in time to change clothes and head into the City for a Broadway performance of Hitchcock's The 39 Steps at The Curran, which was just a whole lotta fun.

We managed to leave with plenty of time, so that we could park (and pay an arm and a leg -- GEEZ!!!), have some apps and drinks before the show at a superb little grill nearby, sit way up front (like 7th row Orchestra) for the most amazing 4-person show, and then (yay!) stop off for some coffee, chai, and biscotti's on our way back to the car.

It was raining, but not unbearably -- and really, any excuse to throw on a gorgeous raincoat, scarf and gloves is totally alright with me.

The whole city just glistened in sparkle and shine. Everyone was smiling and all dolled up. The air was crisp, and there wasn't even any wind. Man, there's really just nothing like a great Saturday night in the City.

Thursday, December 24, 2009


So we were sitting around on the morning of Christmas Eve, talking about the plan for the day and trying to find something to watch on TV that wasn't National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation (for the bezillionth time) or Kathie Lee and Hoda politely scratching each other's eyes out, when suddenly my phone rings.

It was a local number, but not one I recognized. And normally, I would just let it go to voicemail, but as I'm becoming increasingly aware of how very unemployed I am, and that how being unemployed actually means that there really isn't any money coming in, and that I really love my Starbucks so dearly, and my shoes, and my handbags, and my Starbucks...



"Hi," says a tiny little voice on the other end of the line. "Thith ith Emily."

"Oh, hi Emily," I respond, "are you looking for Saia?" and all heads in the house popped up like prairie dogs.

So, apparently, Saia and one of her little BFFs at school have exchanged phone numbers. Saia, who can barely remember to brush her teeth every morning, or put on her t-shirt right side out, has miraculously recalled my phone number. Which, yes, I spent hours trying to teach them to memorize by using the tune to Jingle Bells. Which, yes, in case of an emergency, is absolutely a good thing. Which, no, an emergency this is not.

But it was just about the cutest thing to see Saia try to have a normal conversation over the phone. Laughing and giggling about lost teeth and comparing their Tooth Fairy booty. And then when the call got dropped, Emily called back and left a voicemail for Saia to tell her how much she enjoyed talking to her, how she's her best friend, and, oh, by the way, hi Santiago.

Just too cute for words!

But, seriously, people. She's only 6!! She should NOT be getting phone calls from people who are not directly related to her, and even then, it comes through me. But it was Christmas Eve, and I was feeling generous, and maybe a little stunned, so, I hope she enjoyed the moment 'cause it ain't happening again until she turns 18!!!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009


So, go ahead and guess what I got from Santa (just a little bit early, I know -- no need to be so jealous!)? It's a FLIP!!! And it's the coolest little gadget ever (shhh! don't tell my iPhone)!! But, okay, now you can be jealous. :P

Mema & Saia: Thinking of starting their own cooking show

Be sure to stay tuned for our next uber-mundane FLIP videos: Breathing In & Out and Watching Paint Dry.


Thank goodness for The Mema, who has temporarily taken over all of the childrens' entertainment in this house since her arrival this past Sunday.

Granted, she's now regularly downing a couple of glasses of wine and collapsing on the sofa right after they go to bed, but hey, from my perspective, sacrificing some grown-up conversation is a small price to pay for those extra winks in the morning. ;)

Tuesday, December 22, 2009


Yay! She's finally of age that we can begin to employ her under the Holiday Child Labor Rule.

What? Didn't your parents?

So, on the second day of her visit, The Mema began to pass on the not-s0-secret secret family recipes and techniques for making the perfect batch of tamales (sans the usual Texas-style Bambi homicides).

We used pork instead. They don't have doe eyes.

And within minutes, she had Saia embarrando like your Tia Maria. (Oh, come on, everyone's got one.)

And before we knew it, we had 8 dozen, and even a couple with pazas (yu-huh-me-he!!).

Oops...now we're down to 7 dozen.

Mmmm...can't you just smell them?

Um...okay, now it's only 6...

Oh, you know how this goes.

Monday, December 21, 2009


First morning after Mema's arrival. Really, no telling how early it actually started. But it was easily well before daybreak, as the kids were so excited for weeks about running into her room first thing in the morning and jumping on her bed and playing games.

The look on her face below clearly shows they're winning. Or maybe she just really really needs her coffee. But, most likely, it's that Saia's giving one of her very detailed, usually very self-elevating, explanations for how the game SHOULD actually go, which, coincidentally, usually ensures her victory.

Sunday, December 20, 2009


Our Mema's coming! Our Mema's coming!


She's on the plane and on her way, and we can't wait wait wait to see her!!!!

Saturday, December 19, 2009


It's true. I love Macy's for ooooooh soooooo many reasons. But at Christmas, they've always just got the cutest little mail-your-letters-to-Santa display, so it's really just the absolute perfect excuse to have to brave the insanity of last-minute shopping crowds and run into the mall one. last. time.

Plus...they have shoes.

Friday, December 18, 2009


Man, were they adorable. All dressed in black and white. Each with a holiday scarf. I didn't even notice that there were other children around them.

But there they stood, surrounded by 80 other first graders, standing so straight and tall, all singing at the top of their lungs, all smiling from ear to ear, all blinded from the barrage of camera flashes from the mom-and-poparazzi.

And I was shocked, as I usually am, at how well they behaved. They knew exactly what to do next, where to go next, what song was coming up next. They actually clapped on the beat and even hit a few notes here and there.

Had a bit of tennis neck, as their classes were on opposite sides of the stage. But beyond that, we were just so proud...that no one got hurt...no one knocked anyone over...no one picked their nose...and no one poked anyone's eye out. At least not DURING the show.


Thursday, December 17, 2009


So, Saia lost ANOTHER tooth. This makes 4, I think. Although, at this rate, I'm easily losing count.

We're also really thinking that there was a whole lot less "losing" than there was yanking this time around. And we're thinking it may have had something to do with the fact that the Toothfairy gave her $5 bucks just last Thursday night for her ginormous front rabbit tooth, and here she noticed she had a sorta kinda loose one, and here it's just a week from Christmas, and here she hasn't yet bought presents for anyone, and here, it seems, the girl was presented with an easy, logical, and self-fulfilling opportunity for some easy cash.

So, I'm not sure how long she'd been plotting it, but sometime between the few minutes that the bell rang this afternoon at school and she stood up in line to leave, and when she actually came outside to see us, she acquired a whole new gap.

And there's already a monster coming in behind it, too. (Yet another maternal line inheritance, along with her gift of gab and hard-to-love toenails.)

Saturday, December 12, 2009

A Wrinkle In Time

Playing "You've Got to be Kidding" for game night again last night. It's Chago's turn. It's a challenge card, which requires that he find something in the room that best describes the word on the card before the timer runs out.

The word was "wrinkles".

Without a moment's hesitation, he reached out and took my hand.

And I just sat there and stared at him incredulously. Me? Not me! I was stunned. Stunned, I tell you!! I am NOT the first thing that comes to your mind when you think of wrinkles!! No frickin' way!!

And time just stood still for a moment, as the realization of how my children actually see me begins to sink in. As I try to swallow the pill that says I'm now "old" in their eyes. As the truth and inevitability of my own mortality jumps up and slaps me across the face!

And then I'm suddenly flooded with images of my Grandma Queta's hands, whose wrinkles among perfectly manicured and painted (red!) nails, I remember so fondly. Her long slender fingers, her dark skin. They were always so soft, and I always remember thinking how beautiful they were. They seemed worldly to me. The things they'd seen and lived through. The thousands of cheeks they'd pinched, and babies they'd cradled; the family they'd held and comforted and buried; the seeds they'd sown, and meals they'd cooked, and the infinite number of rosaries they'd prayed.

And I miss her so much. And I ache to hold her hands again. And am suddenly not so offended that I see her hands in mine. (Even though I AM only 39!!)

And he just looks up at me with those puppy dog eyes, still cradling my hand in his, and he says, "What's wrong, Mom?"

And Saia, obviously the more sensitive of the two, and certainly way more in tune to my vanity, quickly jumps in and says, "Her hands are NOT wrinkled, Bubba!"

And then (dear God please help my child make it to his next birthday) he says, "Well, I was first gonna choose her face, but I thought she might get mad."


Friday, December 11, 2009


Reading Harry Potter, as we do every night (thank you, thank you, Diana!!), we get to a place where Hermione's writing an essay on why Muggles need electricity.

(Muggles, in case you've been living under a rock, are non-magic folk to the wizarding world. Duh!)

Anyway, so he asks me, "Mom, you're a
Muggle, right?" (as though he weren't)

"Sure, son. Why?"

"Well, then you should be able to tell us why Muggles need electricity, then, huh?"

"Well, bubba, for the obvious reasons, like the fact that we can't just walk into a room and shout
LUMOS! and expect the lights to come on."

And when the fits of laughter finally stopped, he says, "But, Mom, you can!"

"What are you talking about, son?" I ask cautiously, utterly aware that I was being set up.

"Well, I just saw on that commercial with the old lady who walks into the dark room and claps her hands twice and POOF! the light comes on, and then she does it again and POOF! the light goes out! It's just LIKE magic!"

"What? The Clapper? Are you telling me that the Clapper is some sort of magical tool? So, me walking around clapping my hands singing 'CLAP ON!' 'CLAP OFF!' makes me a wizard, does it?"

Again with the fits of laughter.

But once they were down, and I was getting into bed, I thought how cool it must be to have a mind that sees magic in even the silliest little things. And no, I'm not necessarily saying the As Seen On TV store is Hogsmeade, for goodness sakes, but maybe finding a little something out of this world in everyday objects is not such a bad way to live.

Point taken, you crazy boy.

Thursday, December 10, 2009


Man, she fiddled with this thing for almost two weeks solid, and finally, today, after going to school looking like a snaggletooth and sounding like Sylvester the cat, she pulled the damn thing out herself just shortly after recess!

She came home with it safely tucked away in a little plastic tooth case on a string around her neck, and hasn't stopped smiling since.

Of course, knowing that the Tooth Fairy was gonna likely drop a 5-spot for a sucker that huge probably helped the whole process along just a bit, too.


Wednesday, December 09, 2009

LETTERS TO SANTA (or...the art of negotiation from the minds of 6-year-olds)

Apparently employing tactics straight out of the "How to Influence People" series, Saia's letter to Santa this year (photo to the right) was really not messing around.

Notice how effortlessly she...
  1. highlights her strongpoints [repeating the word "help" as many times as possible in one sentence for added subliminal persuasion]
  2. owns up to her areas of weakness [but only "sumtims"], and then quickly quashes it with her efforts to improve them ["I did chors"]; and finally
  3. she's straightforward with her expectations ['cause you certainly ain't gonna git it if you don't even bother asking for it]
Thinking I may just have to enlist her to edit my resume, although I'm pretty sure I can't afford her.

Santiago, not surprisingly, took a slightly different approach with his letter to Santa this year (photo to the left).

Although, his negotiating skills and talent for understating the obvious appear to be a bit more polished ["for the most part, I've had a good year"], we may need to work on toning down the brown-nosing ["Santa, I hope YOU had a good year too. I think your very Joly and very fun!"].

Hmm...just a tad?

Thinking even Santa might see right through that one this year.

Tuesday, December 08, 2009


Meet our latest obsession: PUFF PASTRY.


Although it works wonders with savory dishes, making tasty little pastry pockets out of all sorts of leftovers, it makes just the best tasting lightest little cookies out of...whatever!

We had lots of cranberry sauce leftover after Thanksgiving. Mostly 'cause I'm the only one in the house who likes it, but I always buy two bags of cranberries anyway, always cook like I'm on an Army base, and have freezer storage enough to withstand any sort of 2012 event! Bring it on, baby.

Ok, sorry, tangent over.

So, Saia and I had seen something on one of the cooking channels that we wanted to try. We rolled out the pastry, spread out the jelly (only we used the cranberry sauce instead), rolled both sides in to meet in the middle. Then we sliced the roll, brushed on a little butter (or egg white) and sprinkled each with a little bit of cinnamon/sugar.

They were perfect and yummy! But they don't do well the next day, so you best gobble them up in one sitting. Permission granted.

Monday, December 07, 2009


"Mama," she comes into my bedroom nearly weeping.

"Mama, look what happened to my teddy bear."

And she produces from behind her back this limp little thing, draped over both her arms, apparently lifeless and very nearly headless with the stuffing poofing out from the nape of what's left of its neck.

"What in the world happened to him?" I ask her, unsure of whether to laugh or scowl.

"I don't know, Mom," she immediately says (always a sure sign that she does). And then she quickly glances around for back up.

And as if on cue, in walks the other monster, hands behind his back, too. "Mama," he mutters miserably. "Mama, look at what happened to Teddy."

And he mimics her previous actions, holding out a poor defenseless little thing, only his is upside down, and the stuffing's pretty much popping right out of its butt.

"Ohh-kaaaay," I say, trying to maintain a stern look over my grin, "I don't think Mama really wants to know anymore. Hand them over and get to bed."

A little midnight emergency surgery, a tiny embroidered heart on each paw, and back under the covers they went.

At 6-0-0 on the nose, I hear in unison from their bedroom, "THANK YOU, MAMA!!!"

[I think I like this job.]

Sunday, December 06, 2009


"Read to me, Saia" he demands.

But with that face and those eyes, he's just so hard to refuse.

And she's so much her Mama's little girl that saying no doesn't even occur to her if she can do anything to make him smile.

So, she props open a book they'd picked up from the library on Saturday, and plopped herself next to him on the sofa so he wouldn't even have to move from his comfy little spot on Mommy's chair, and she read.

And she read and she read and she read.

And he smiled.

[plus they were grounded all weekend; what else were they gonna do?]

Saturday, December 05, 2009


Hauled our cookies out to Half Moon Bay this morning for our annual Christmas Tree Hunt.

Ended up at Santa's Farm again because the kids love the decrepit old man that plays Santa, and the weird "Christmas Bear" in the dingy old used-to-be-white-about-10-years-ago suit, and the rickety old holiday train that clinks and clanks around the lot blasting Christmas music from it's crackling speakers at maximum volume and serving up free (warm...ish) apple cider and $1 (mostly stale) popcorn. (Hey, you know, who am I to judge?)

The greatest thing about this lot, though, is that we've done this particular one for a couple of years in a row now, so we've got that thing down. It's like the mall at this point, man. We know exactly where the Douglas Firs and Grand Firs and Monterrey Pines are. We know exactly which fields got plowed last year, which way to head for the best crop, which port-a-potty is usual used least, and which back roads all the crazy first timers are gonna congest trying to get to the fake snow machine first.

So, we were in and out of there like nothing today. And although the pickings were a little slim this year, we all agreed we picked a real winner. Can't wait to get her all dolled up tomorrow.

The house already smells like Christmas. And despite the changes in our lives this year, we're all still here, and all still healthy, and that's more than I expected 5 months ago. So there.



Friday, December 04, 2009


They were supposed to belt test tonight.

They were pre-registered, pre-paid for, and had been practicing for weeks for this.

No more tip testing, and tip taking-away, and tip re-earning, and tip re-removal.

They had finally stuck it out long enough to earn all their tips and were finally going to move out of white belts.


Both of them.

Without rhyme or reason. Without an excuse or justification.

He came home with 2 orange cards and a yellow card this week, and Amy even overhead some other parent referring to him as a troublemaker.

And Saia was no better, ending up with a POOR on her behavior rating for Monday-Thursday, a POOR (!!!), although her teacher made sure to emphasize what an angel she was today. (Yeah, I'm sure she was -- knowing full well she was belt testing tonight, that little sh*t!!)

But this is BY FAR their worst behavior week at this school, and we're at a complete loss for what happened. I mean, except for the fact that we just came off of a week break, which I guess could have had some affect on them, but other than that, everything else was exactly the same. Same schedule. Same routine. Same everything.

Except for the demon children that possessed my babies.

That's kinda new.

So, what the hell are we supposed to do!?!?

We were supposed to go the school's holiday store after school today so that they could spend their allowance on small gifts for each other and for a few friends. But that's out.

Then, on the way home, I called the dojo and cancelled their test. Flat out cancelled it.

"NOOOOOO!!" they both screamed.

Cancelled. After 2 months of hard work. Two and three times a week. Rain or shine. Grumpy or not. After they did so well in the competition. Were really looking forward to moving onto the next belt level. And now it's gone.

Now, everyone else in their class will be a belt ahead. Everyone else will get to cut in front of them in line and move them over because they'll be outranked -- always. Everyone else, despite their own behavior (which we see examples of in vivid color at every single practice), will still have been there tonight and get to think and act like they're something better than my kids.

And yes, OF COURSE we thought about taking them anyway, too. The damn thing was already paid for. I turned down TWO Christmas party invitations to stay home tonight. Their uniforms were bright white and ready. The camera was charged. The Mema was on hold just waiting for a text to hear how the grandbabies did.

But how could we do that? How could we go back on our word? Of the 7 basic rules they're supposed to be following, they smashed over half of them this week alone!! There's just NO WAY we could not stand by what we said. No way. They knew what they were doing. They were prepared. We told them every single day. They understood, at least conceptually, what the consequences were. Now they have to feel it.

But what sucks the mostest is that I have to feel it, too.

We were so looking forward to this weekend. And me, most of all.

It's our annual hunt and peck for our Christmas Tree, and we'd already planned on trekking our happy little tushies all the way out to Half Moon Bay at the crack of dawn tomorrow to try and beat the traffic. We were going to pull out and put up all of our Christmas decorations, and even watch a Christmas movie for movie night. I bought some puff pastry so that we could make some cranberry and cinnamon cookies and have hot chocolate while we worked on our popcorn strings. I just love the holidays. It makes my whole soul smile. The smells, the movies, the non-stop Christmas music on the radio. The way people go out of their way to do extra little things for perfect strangers (e.g., Amy paid for the toll of the old gentleman behind us going over the bridge today). The way you suddenly feel a part of something bigger, something real, something more.

But now what? NOW. WHAT. How much of tomorrow should we withhold? It's a once a year event, for crissakes. Do we stay? Do we go? And are they gonna learn their lesson either way?

Of all weeks for them to pull this. Seriously. It makes me just wanna wax their underarms! You know, if they had any hair there. And if it wasn't illegal to torture your children.

Thursday, December 03, 2009

and today's now our 5-month un-anniversary

and i can't breathe

i can't swallow

and i can't blink

this isn't how it's supposed to be

and i can't feel

i can't hear

and i can't think

this isn't right, this isn't us, this isn't we

and i can't see

i can't touch

and i can't dream

this isn't real, this isn't you, this isn't me


Tuesday, December 01, 2009


Awoke way before the alarm this morning to what I thought was the sound of those really loud kamikaze blue jays outside my window, or maybe it was those equally annoying mommyjoggers who pop out of their minivans at 5:30 every morning to speedwalk past my house sharing way too much information over and over and over again, or maybe it was that family of roosters with the screwed up internal clocks, or, no...wait a minute...

It's just the monsters. Whispering, giggling, then shushing one another.

I roll over and look at the clock. 5:45. Ugh. It's not even daylight yet. And I was tempted, so tempted, to yell at them to go back to sleep, but then I thought -- I could be wrong -- but I really thought I heard him say, "I love you, Saia." And then, if you can believe it, I thought I heard her say what sounded like, "I love you, too, Santiago."

What? It couldn't be. Not MY monsters. Not the Saia and Chago who, just yesterday, BOTH got in trouble for being cruel and mean and inconsiderate to one another in front of all their friends -- AGAIN.

So, I waited. For the inevitable blow up. For the inferno. For the mother of all fights. Because it always comes. Always.

Doesn't it?

I mean, doesn't it???

But nothing. Nothing happened.

And for the next thirty minutes they just laughed ...and whispered ...and chatted ...and giggled.

And when I finally got out of bed to officially get them up, I found him in her bed, and they were snuggled up next to one another, surrounded by a handful of stuffed animals and a pile of pillows, all smiles and wiggles, all friendship and brotherly love.

And in just that moment, I reached to touch my tummy, still and forever battlescarred from their world debut, and could've sworn, for just a second, that my belly moved.