Thursday, April 29, 2010


Ok, so from week to week their tastes seem to change these days. And that's no exaggeration. Food I tried to get them to eat last week, and had to, literally, end up chopping into unidentifiable pieces so that they could be stuffed into sauces and gravies and pasta shells, they're now scrambling for and can't seem to get enough of.

And staples that have been on our shopping list for months have suddenly fallen out of favor with the fickle duo, and they turn up their noses and make those lovely gagging sounds at the mere mention of the thing.

As a result, I've got like 5 different peanut butter brands in my cabinet at this very moment because Friday is their usual PB&J bag lunch.

The jellies, thankfully, have remained a little more consistent. We moved from Apple Butter to Grape, but have stuck with low-sugar strawberry for a good year now, if not longer.

So, in my effort to deplete our peanut butter supply, and also to recalibrate their tastes, we conducted an unofficial peanut butter taste test between Jif, Peter Pan, and Project Open Hand.

And here [drumroll, please] are the official results:

Tuesday, April 27, 2010




She played pitcher this past Saturday, which, for her level, really doesn't include any actual pitching, but they do have to stand near the coach (who is pitching) and field anything that comes her way, which, let's face it, they're 7, so except for that handful who can hit that thing off the back wall, the rest pretty much end up right around and about the pitcher's territory.

And that was just fine for Saia.

She is so quick on her feet. Quick to release. And has a cannon for an arm. The first position the coach ever had her play was third 'cause it never even phased her to just shoot it all the way over to first.

She works so well with her team. And with two of her little friends, especially, with whom she very nearly nailed a couple of singles, and is easily on track for a double before the season is out. You know, if, um...we were the competitive sort.

Once she gains a little more directional control, man, she'll be unstoppable.

But it was so great to see -- especially for her to see -- all her hard work and genuine excitement and devotion to the game awarded with the prized and coveted game ball.

She. Was. Absolutely. G.L.O.W.I.N.G!!!!

Monday, April 26, 2010


I have soared to new veggie heights today, people! My kids ate asparagus. Whole. Right off the grill. And I didn't have to disguise them with sauces, or painstakingly shove them into penne pasta, or puree them into an unidentifiable soup, or anything of the sort.

We bought 3 pounds at the farmer's market on Saturday, worried that, as usual, I bought more than we'd consume. Rinsed and snipped the ends, dropped them into a large ziploc baggie, and poured in some cilantro/basil infused olive oil (which really just means, I tore off a couple of leaves of each and shoved them into the drip bottle for about a week), then I plopped in two tablespoons of minced garlic, some fresh ground kosher salt, and a little fresh ground black pepper.

And that was it.

Amy refuses to tell me exactly how long she put them on the grill for, or exactly where the magical location on the grill actually was, but they were BEYOND PHENOMENAL!

And between the 4 of us, all three pounds were gone within a half hour.

Color me green and happy!!

[Let the inevitable urinary commentary begin.]

Sunday, April 25, 2010


So, remember how I said we didn't get to go see Oceans on Earth Day because of the oh-so-very-bad-day?

Well, as I happened to Target (far too frequently in my unemployment, it's true) earlier in the week to pick up The Godforsaken Squeakquel (yes, that IS the official title), I also saw and picked up the first in the Disney Nature series, Earth, which was released on Earth Day last year:

And it was all awesomeness and wowza. Truthfully. It was simultaneously riveting and tranquil. Enthralling and serene. But, of course, how could it not be, what with the being lulled hither and fro by the voice of Darth Vader himself? Who WILL the world use for vocal royalty once the great James Earl Jones has passed?

And the kids even managed the ebb and flow of birth and death pretty well. Although, I'm telling you now, had that baby elephant bit the dust, I would've flat out sued Disney for mental anguish!!!

And we were doing fine...laughing ... and smiling ...and oohing and ahhing.

Right. Up. Until. The freaking polar bear curled up in exhaustion and starvation in the middle of a herd of walrus...and died.

And the boy broke into hysterics.

Thank you, thank you very much, Disney. I'll be sending you the therapy bill.

Saturday, April 24, 2010


What is it about Kettle Korn cooked so tenderly and cheerfully in a gigantic witches' cauldron over an open flame by an inevitably sweaty man donning a welder's mask that just makes it so yummily perfect?

They're just always the right size, so light and oh-so-puffy. There's never too much sugar, so the slightly tan carmelized coating is really more of a teaser than a full-fledged sweet tooth satisfier. But that makes it feel less indulgent, which, therefore, means I can eat the whole bag. The length of my child bag. The $8 bag.

And I've tried to buy the microwaveable kind, I have -- not really for me -- more for the know, since the popcorn incident.

But, God love him, he knows it's not the same. He can't resist the real kettle korn pull either.

Even though he knows what's coming. Even though he is defeated every single time by the crispy little kernel shells who love him so dearly that they embed themselves in the lining of his throat until he hacks and gurgles like a 95-year-old man.

He stands in line, waiting, patiently, even allowing his sister to hold the money, to stand in front of him, to even taste the first kernel, just so long as he gets his own bowl later.

And I know this place from which his desire is borne. I live there every Saturday morning as we make our way to the market. I can smell it when we're 3 blocks away. And I purposely walk our family counter-clockwise through the streets, so that the Kettle Korn kiosk is the very last one we hit before we leave -- prolonging the anticipation -- wrapped in the warmth and the sweetness of the freshly cooked popcorn smell wafting across the fresh veggies and folk singers.'s suddenly occurring to me that, as yet, the only sure-fire cure for his self-induced hack-attack thusfar has been a couple of slices of french toast bread slathered with agave nectar and a side of ice cold milk.

Hmm...that little monster's been using my vice to get to his, hasn't he?!?! Damn boy!!!

Thursday, April 22, 2010


So, I had already decided that for Earth Day we were gonna go see Oceans when I picked up the kids from school. As a surprise. So they wouldn't be stressed out all day trying to maintain their best behavior, which is a surefire way to screw things up.

But the second I showed up, he broke into tears. He'd gotten a red card. (Green > Yellow > Orange > Red) Which meant that he'd had to go talk to the principal. And no, it wasn't for anything major. It wasn't a specific incident. No one was bleeding or bruised or even insulted.

But he'd pushed it about as far as he could go with his teacher. Stepping just outside of his boundaries each and every time she called him on something. And he did it knowingly, consciously making those choices, realizing that he was losing ground, and not making a positive change.

So...he did his time. Sacrificed his recess. Apologized to his teacher. And came home with a sad red face on his progress report.

And I didn't yell. And I didn't scream. And I didn't even ask why. And he said, "Mom, you really didn't respond the way I thought you were gonna."

"No, bubba?" I said. "Sometimes it's nice to surprise people and do something a little unexpected." (Kinda hoping he'd get the hint.)

So, he didn't get any additional punishment from me, but the movie, which really would've been a reward, was a definite no-go. :(

But, after all, it was still Earth Day, and we still had to do our part, despite our less than perfect day, so instead, we strapped on our tennis shoes (and by we, I mean they), and we grabbed a couple of garbage bags (again, they), and we trekked down to the lake. It took us about 2 hours over and back, but we scooped up a whole lot of trash along the way. And I found it so amusing how they both kept talking about "those people" who don't care about the environment, and that they were getting so frustrated with the number of cigarette butts we kept finding, saying that "they'd never just drop these things on the floor in their OWN home, so why do they do it here?" Suddenly so self-righteous, these two.

And, of course, every jogger or walker that passed us by made it a point to comment positively and encourage their efforts, which they just soaked up like the sun.

And in the end, although we were a little tired from all the bending and lugging, I think we all felt like at least we'd done something small to make our little part of the world just a little bit cleaner, and perhaps reinforced to ourselves that no ONE person is responsible for cleaning up the environment. We're all co-owners here.


Tuesday, April 20, 2010


I was first hit over the head by the concept of visual explanations at a seminar I went to in Seattle about 6 years ago when a co-worker was unable to attend.

The presenter, who I'd never heard of at the time, was Edward Tufte, a statistician, of all things. I know!! I hate numbers!!! But this was one of those few times in my life that I was genuinely and pleasantly surprised -- when what I received actually exceeded my expectations -- and from which I left with more than I came.

There were two things that struck me hardest and have stuck with me to this day. One was this map of Napoleon's march on Russia in 1812, noted by Tufte as being “The best statistical graphic ever drawn," in his authoritative work The Visual Display of Quantitative Information.

The problem is that this graphic is just way too small. I saw it on a huge conference screen. I've also seen it framed and mounted on a wall, which is equally impressive and just as impactful. But at this size, it's just really hard to grasp the genius of the work.

"The chart, or statistical graphic, is also a map. It depicts the advance into (1812) and retreat from (1813) Russia by Napoleon’s Grande Armée, which was decimated by a combination of the Russian winter, the Russian army and its scorched-earth tactics.

As a statistical chart, the map unites six different sets of data:
  • Geography: rivers, cities and battles are named and placed according to their occurrence on a regular map.
  • The army’s course: the path’s flow follows the way in and out that Napoleon followed.
  • The army’s direction: indicated by the colour of the path, gold leading into Russia, black leading out of it.
  • The number of soldiers remaining: the path gets successively narrower, a plain reminder of the campaigns human toll, as each millimeter represents 10,000 men.
  • Temperature: the freezing cold of the Russian winter on the return trip is indicated at the bottom, in the republican measurement of degrees of réaumur (water freezes at 0° réaumur, boils at 80° réaumur).
  • Time: in relation to the temperature indicated at the bottom, from right to left, starting October 24th (pluie, i.e. ‘rain’) to December 7th (-27°).
Pause a moment to ponder the horrific human cost represented by this map: Napoleon entered Russia with 442,000 men, took Moscow with only 100,000 men left, wandered around its abandoned ruins for some time and escaped the East’s wintry clutches with barely 10,000 shivering soldiers. Those include 6,000 rejoining the ‘bulk’ of the army from up north. Napoleon never recovered from this blow, and would be decisively beaten at Waterloo under two years later." (Thanks to StrangeMaps for this most excellent summation.)

The other visual explanation demonstration that resonated with me at the conference then and continues with me to this day (as I actually used it just this morning to help teach Impressionism to Chago's class of first-graders) was this mesmerizing mapping of Claude Debussy's Claire de Lune, which... still... just... captures... me.

Sunday, April 18, 2010


Our first really gorgeous day of the year, a sure sign that summer's right around the corner in Cali. The PGA had a local golf tourney that Mommy was able to score some free tickets to, so off we went (just look at them all in their brand new Nikes).

The course was beautiful...but really really really...really hilly. There were these awesome sweeping views of the bay and the city and all three of the bridges, but it was, literally, aaaaaaaacres from one hole to the next. And once we (and by we, I mean me) decided oh, wouldn't it be fun to just walk the front nine before lunch, we realized by hole 3 that there was no downhill, no riding in carts, no turning back, no shortcuts, no food and drink along the way, and, as if that weren't enough, everyone had to be uber silent or the crazy people with the giant "QUIET" signs might come out from behind their oversized staff badges and strangle us with their lanyards.

It was, after that, just sheer TORTURE for the kids. It didn't matter how many lizards, or hawks, or butterflies, or swallows we saw. They were D-O-N-E, DONE.

Aaaaaaand we still had, like, 6 holes to go.

Then somewhere around hole 4, everyone, all at once, decides they have to go potty. But the potties are still two holes away. Of course. Uphill. Of course. Against the wind. Wouldn'tyaknow? And in the hot sun.

But, lucky for you, we made it with no accidents, and oh-so-gratefully finished the front 9 without even a glance back as we bee-lined for the lemonade and beer stands. Settled under a giant expo tent with our box lunches and cool drinks, the kids finally found a reason to be there. And it was as if the entire morning never even happened. Tia Sonia's gonna be so proud to see the monsters have discovered Bocce Ball:

Friday, April 16, 2010


Ugh. More stars.

I mean, yay! and wow! and all that. Truly.

But, my Lord, these kids are gonna bleed my fingers dry. And that damn sewing machine that I just HAD TO HAVE soooo does me absolutely no good at all for sewing stars upon thars. Or at least, not that I've been able to decipher from the cryptic manual that you must be over 80 to understand.

And these things, these stars, are coming home in droves every. single. week. It's practically an infestation, I tell ya.

An orange one for every 10 books read. The kids, of course, take that as a challenge, and try to fill in 20 before returning their sheet.

Purple for perfect attendance. Blue if they bring a buddy. Gold for an excellent report card.

I've got stars coming out of my ass!! But that much you already knew, I know.

And of course it might help -- I'm just saying might -- IF I sewed them on AS they come home versus collecting them in a bowl like my own personal little rainbow galaxy and then frantically trying to stitch them on the night before they belt test.

But, it's difficult to be frustrated when I look at their faces, when I watch them standing so proudly, so straight and tall, and we're called up to stand beside them, prouder peacocks (or peahens, if we must be technical) there never were, and they're smiling from ear to ear, all bedazzled and bedecked in their star-laden gis, as they channel their inner Ralph Macchios and earn their next belt level.

Bring on the stars, baby!!!

Thursday, April 15, 2010


OFFICIAL DISCLAIMER: We don't claim to be uber health nuts 'round here, but we do try to eliminate unnecessary sugars and fats when we can.

I don't doubt that there are a million things we're doing wrong (and would love to hear your tips), but here are a few really simple, really inexpensive tweaks we've made to our own daily meal routines in order to ensure we're still getting the nutrition we need without adding in all the bad stuff.

The Top 5 Things Saia & Chago (would) Recommend (if they were aware they were being snowed):

Morning leche
  • the need for strawberry or chocolate syrups (although you're trying to ensure enough calcium intake)
  • 2/3 vanilla soy or almond milk, 1/3 2% milk, microwave for about a minute (tastes like a Starbucks Vanilla Steamer)
Pancake and waffle syrup
  • excruciatingly high sugar content
  • a drizzle of Blueberry flavored Blue Agave Nectar (naturally sweetened honey)
French Toast
  • overuse of sugar and syrup
  • French toast bread, cut a hole in the middle, place on the griddle, and drop in an egg, no need for syrups (Egg in a Nest...mmm...yummy!!)
  • white flour breads and high sugar jellies
  • 100% whole wheat bread, low-sugar (not NO SUGAR because that's just got aspartame or something) jellies, natural low-sodium reduced fat peanut butter, and banana slices
Salty craving
  • high-sodium high-fat chips and dips
  • low-butter microwave popcorn seasoned with parmesan or other cheese flavoring
Sweet craving
  • candy
  • yogurt cup with granola (or cheerios), blueberries, and strawberries
  • white flour pasta and heavy-sodium (canned) spaghetti sauces
  • whole wheat pastas, tossed in olive oil, garlic salt, and fresh ground pepper, a couple of basil leaves and some halved sweet grape tomatoes (you can also top with grilled chicken slices, or grilled shrimp)
  • deep fried fish or chicken strips (or nuggets)
  • grilled, baked, or microwaved wild salmon seasoned with bbq sauce, or lemon, garlic, and cilantro, or (my favorite) Asian Sesame Seed Low-Fat Salad Dressing
Frozen pizza
  • a ton of extra empty calories and really high sodium content
  • only ultra-thin crust margherita pizzas, sprinkled with our own shredded cheeses, grilled shrimp or chicken, chopped veggies, etc
Ice cream
  • high fat, high sugar content in overly sweetened ice creams, sugar cones, and toppings
  • low-sugar frozen yogurt in a plain wafer cone with a maraschino cherry on top
  • high-sugar, high-fructose, high-corn syrup (despite what those commercials say)
  • all-fruit, all-natural frozen popsicles

Obviously, this isn't an all-inclusive list. But I ramble enough as it is, so I thought it was best to stop before...well, see, now there I go.

So...What are some of your quick and cheap meal substitutes?

Tuesday, April 13, 2010


We are so eager to vilify people without knowing the whole story, I know.

And from all outward appearances, this woman made what in her mind (the stability of which is obviously in question) must've been genuine efforts to get the child back to Russia safely. But, oh my God, I just don't understand this. I don't. I'm so grateful she didn't drive her vehicle in the river to drown him...but is that only because he was old enough to swim?

And the fact that there is a sincere possibility that there may not actually be any charges that can be legally brought upon her is truly a failure of the justice system.

And beyond that, that she may even be able to sue, or somehow receive compensation for HER pain and anguish because she may have been lied to or deceived by the adoption agency is excruciatingly shocking. File this one under O.J. Simpson.

Tuesday, April 06, 2010


This was an easy win. Had a lazy our jammies, no less (this is a little unusual in our house).

Let them pick out their own outfits. Yes, really. See how I have no control issues? See? See? See?!?!

Loaded up our picnic basket with all sorts of snacks (Babybel cheeses, graham crackers, fruit roll-ups, popcorn, pretzels, fig newtons, etc), apple juices, waters, fresh fruit, dried cranberries and blueberries, and the yummiest turkey and cheese sandwiches, if I do say so myself.

Double-checked the first-aid and earthquake kits. Sent everyone to the potty. Again. Dug out the sunblock. And locked up the dogs.

Loaded up the scooters, the kites, the picnic mat, the book I'm reviewing, my camera bag, my oversized handbag (filled to the brim with wipies and tissues and crayons and sugarfree gum and a magnetic chess set and a thumbdrive and AA batteries and tampons and my make-up and wallet and sunglasses).

Grabbed my FLIP, my iPhone, my favorite moleskin notepad (yes, it's an actual paper and pen sorta thing -- I know, I know, my tekkie friends would send me a worm if they knew, SHHH!) and, of course, my venti chai.

Closed up shop, loaded everyone in the truck, and drove all the way down to the park...

...4 blocks away.

Yeah. That's right. Shut up.

But it was such a go-hor-geous day! And it only took all of which (and at least 12 other videos that I will NOT be showing), to finally get the kites up and flying. Yay! Great job, kiddos!!! So proud that you stuck with it. :)

Monday, April 05, 2010


The last activity on our Day 1 of Spring Break 2010 (which, seriously, ended up being the busiest damn day of all, and I really should've just gotten our happy bums out of bed earlier and out of the house because staying home was, frankly, just exhausting).

But welcome to the Santiago Museum of Fictitious Garden Creatures and Stuff. Here are the curator himself and his lovely assistant, Saia, presenting for your amusement, "rock snakes," "gappers," and "leaf snakes."

Introducing: The Rock Snakes

Also Starring: The Gappers

With a Special Appearance By: The Leaf Snakes


Once the clouds parted, we moved the party out onto the driveway.

Set up the easel, watered down the dried up and crackled paints, dug out the aprons and the $5 canvasses from BigLots!, and off to town they went.

Their instructions were simply to paint colorful flattering portraits of one another. Something we could send to their Mema for her 60th birthday perhaps (which, of course, continues all year).

The first two attempts we had to wipe clean, as they were both way too dark and, honestly, a little unseemly (totally my own issue, I know -- call it Freudian or whatever, but it was a Rorschach test I was unwilling to confront just 3 days before my 40th birthday and less than 9 months into this "singledom" that I've still not fully embraced).

Yeah, so feel free to step off now.


Attempt number 3 produced these, which I thought were pretty awesome, totally wall-mountable, and definitely gift worthy. :)

And as if their artistic genius wasn't enough for you visually, here's just a little more of them, presenting each of their pieces in ways only they can (yeah, I'll have them hocking the ShamWOW from our front porch in no time -- you just wait).




Awakened by my little man, knobby knees shoved into my side, his elbow pinning my hair to the bed as I futilely try to roll over.

"Mama!" his fake whispers begin. "Guess what?!"

"ugneha??" I mumble.

And his bony little squirrelly body flips and flops and flails, sucking all the warmth out from beneath the blankets and letting in the cold morning air.

I shiver and peek out from under my pillow.

Why is there no sunlight yet? What time is it? How, ingod'sname, could I have possibly spawned an early-riser?

"IT'S SPRING BREAK, MAMA!!!!! NO SCHOOOOOOOL!!!!!!!" he whisper-squeals as he kamikaze hugs me.

And at some point, Saia makes her way in and under the covers, and we talk about our dreams, and we watch a few cartoons, and then we finally roll out of bed for breakfast and begin to throw together the list. The what-are-we-gonna-do-during-spring-break-so-that-we-don't-drive-one-another-completely-crazy list.

So far, it looks like this:
  • library
  • movies (How to Train Your Dragon)
  • park with picnic and kites
  • beach with picnic
  • BART into the City
  • Ferry into the City
  • pottery-making place
  • museum
  • scooters down to the lake with picnic
  • bikes and roller skates around the block
  • zoo
  • paint pictures of each other on canvas
  • reptile place
  • make a recyclable materials project
Aren't you exhausted just reading it? Yeesh, they're a demanding little bunch.

But with this gloomy rainy weather I will be utterly shocked if I can manage to get them dressed and out of the house even one time this week. This morning, they've already sidetracked themselves with lightsabers from their Easter baskets. It's occupied them for an hour already. Hmm. Who knew?

Sunday, April 04, 2010


I'm not a church-goer. I'm just not. And I'm sure my family, both dead and alive, are rolling over in their graves and planned family plots as I write this.

As much as I loved being chastized for just being me by the church and the religion and the general tenets of the society in which I was raised; and as much as I truly adored in the prime of my vulnerable teen years being outcast for thinking differently, feeling differently, loving differently; and as much as, you know, love the sinner, hate the sin, is by far my favorite of the hypocritical Christian hype, I just haven't been able to find my place in that world again.

[Hmm. May need to revisit that one in therapy.]

And I have tried a couple of the non-denominational churches, the Unitarian churches, the MCC churches, and for me they just felt like they were lacking. But that's likely because Mexican Catholicism is just so heavy and bitter and laden with guilt and shame. Comparatively, everything else is only ever gonna feel like marshmallow fluff.

But there's gotta be a middle holy ground, huh? I mean, doesn't there? Shouldn't there be?

Ok, enough of that.

So, anyway...we had our Easter breakfast, had our little egg hunt (6 1/2 dozen cascarones and 2 dozen plastic eggs with quarters inside), and then spent the rest of our day watching the animated The Prince of Egypt (with the voices of Val Kilmer, Michelle Pfeiffer, Patrick Stewart, Sandra Bullock), The Ten Commandments (with the glamalicious Anne Baxter, and, let's face it, the beyond beautiful Yul Brenner), and The Greatest Story Ever Told (with Max von Sydow as Jesus).

We watered the tulips and the Easter Lillies (and by watered, I mean we put them out in the rain). We talked about the differences in the movies, and the various interpretations and significance of Easter and Passover in Christian, Jewish, and pagan terms (with as much knowledge as I could possibly google), and then ended our day with back-to-back Julie Andrews (Mary Poppins and The Sound of Music).

Welcome to a non-traditional Easter in the year 2010.

So, of the 3,000+ videos and pics I shot, this was by far my favorite. Right about 10 seconds in is the moment that just kills me (and then again at 18 seconds).

Saturday, April 03, 2010


It's that time again, folks!

And we're happy to report that we were able to save 6 1/2 dozen eggshells since the beginning of the year (or right after Superbowl -- no, I don't know why that's my trigger).

And maybe because the monsters are a whole year (and 3 weeks) older, the egg-dyeing and stuffing and sealing process all seemed so much easier and calmer, and really just generally less messy -- which is just not something we're used to 'round here.

Well, for all except Lizzy, that is, who somehow managed to get dye all over her face -- and without any help from the kiddos, either. :P

But, anyway, we finished the whole project in less than 2 hours. Here's Saia giving a little instruction on how to stuff and seal your cascarones properly (although she cleverly tries to hide the fact that she's accidentally crushed the shell she's using in her demo). Bull in a china shop, she is.

And here's Chago showing the world how calm and focused he can really be when he's doing something that he loves.

For those of you still unable to remember to start saving your shells in January, you can always cheat and order your pre-dyed and stuffed confetti eggs from here, here, and here. Just don't tell me about it.

Thursday, April 01, 2010


No. This is not an April Fool's joke.

This is actually what my living room looked like on Tuesday. Yes, this Tuesday. As in March 30th, Tuesday.

But thank the Lord and Lizzy, who came to visit on Wednesday (Lizzy, not the Lord -- well, I suppose that part's debatable), for giving me the impetus (read: humiliation = motivation) to finally pack up Christmas before the tree spontaneously combusted in a massive explosion of pine needles and glass balls.

And so, like the good recyclers we are, we've moved our little tree out by our fire pit so she can continue to give us warm fuzzies all summer long.

Don't judge. It was a rough year. Christmas makes me happy. Thinking I'll be putting it all back up in July.