Friday, December 21, 2012


So, the world didn’t end today.  Maybe you heard.
But maybe the lesson here is actually that we should spend more time acting as though it were still going to.  Maybe our take-away is to live our lives as though our days are actually numbered.  Because they are, of course.  And for some of us, even single-digit kinda numbers.
So, what would you do, WILL you do, now given the opportunity?  Who would you reach out to?  How many people would you contact to make amends for things?  To heal old wounds?  To tie up loose strings?  To. Leave. No. Regrets.
How much tighter would you hold your loved ones tonight?  How many more “I-love-yous” would you whisper? How many “I-hate-yous” would you retract?
How many hours would you shave off your work day just to have dinner at the table tonight instead of on the couch?  How many battles with friends, siblings, coworkers, your children…would you concede just so that you can laugh one more time at a laffy taffy joke instead of yelling?
How many random strangers would you open doors for, give spare change to, take into your home, provide a warm meal, offer a smile, speak to as though they were actually human beings with lives and memories and histories written on their innermost inside walls that no one may ever know?
How many animals would you free from zoos, testing facilities, shelters, abusive homes?
How many foster children would you take in?  How many elderly would you offer to read to, sing to, brush their hair?
How many meetings would you miss just to see the last sunrise or sunset?  And how many colds would you risk to be able to run through the rain, fall down in the snow, sleep under the stars, or swim in the ocean…just…one…more…time?
How many ripples would you leave behind?
It’s not necessarily a bad thing that quite a huge chunk of us went to bed last night with just the teensiest bit of wonder about the fate of the world today.  But it’s even better if we wake up tomorrow with that same wonder.  And the day after that.  And the day after that.
So, maybe tonight…take stock of what’s really in your fall-out shelter.  It’s not all canned goods and Twinkies.   With apologies to Prince and gratitude to Tim McGraw, to survive the apocalypse of humankind, you gotta live like you were dying, not like it’s 1999.

Wednesday, November 07, 2012


…or "How women, Latinos, and the LGBT community rallied together to topple a formidable economic agenda in favor of establishing a new social order and issuing a mandate to the country that while we, too, are concerned about our jobs, our bank accounts, and our retirement, we refuse to be the kind of country that sacrifices our humanity in order to drive a Lexus."

And I do say all of this knowing that these are first-world problems we’re talking about. Without refute, there are innumerable other countries in more dire straits than ours. But everyone’s line in the sand is relative. And we drew ours last night.

It made me most proud, as a Latina, as a woman, and as a lesbian mother of two to be able to look my 9-year-old twins in their eyes this morning and tell them that this time, this time… the bullies did not win. This time, the ants banded together and overthrew the grasshoppers – and not because we truly believe we are in a better state economically than we might be with another leader, but because with that other leader we would have so assuredly suffered as a people, as a community, as a country, under the weight of what would mostly have been, and genuinely felt like, a racist, bigoted, mysoginistic, elitist decision.

And no, that is not to say that all Republicans are racists. Or bigots. Or misogynists. Or elitists. But the social impact of a Romney administration would unequivocally have crushed the dream that is our actual America. The dream of immigrants. The dream of minorities. The dream of the persecuted. The dream of the downtrodden. Those are the bootstraps from which we began. Those are. Those.

And we have to remain true to them. Because if we don’t…

If we don’t continue to fight to recognize that all of our minorities, all of our disenfranchised, and all of our marginalized people ARE equal, deserve equal rights, and STILL HAVE AN EQUAL VOTE, then we risk losing who we are at our core. Who we truly claim to be as Americans.

And yes, of course I realize how important it is that we have balance. Why having a Republican House but a Democratic President is actually a good thing. Why term limits on our top political seats are crucial to the reinventing of ourselves as a people, reinvigorating our public, redefining our collective goals, and restating our deal-breakers. And I have accepted, and will continue to accept, whenever a political leader wins with whom I fundamentally disagree because that is what makes our country better. But it’s equally important to note that I didn’t vote for Barack Obama yesterday. I voted for a better America. I voted for an ideal. I voted for the dream.

And this morning, I woke up feeling strong…and heard…and visible.

This morning, I didn’t have to swallow my pride anymore.

I didn’t have to apologize to my children for the people who mistreat them, us, others because we don’t look exactly like they think we should look or act or feel or believe. Because last night, America did what was right for our country as human beings. Last night, America played fair. Last night, America chose decency over pocketbooks. And now the foundation for real forward progress has been laid.

And while there will always and forever be slips and backward steps here and there, the miles we crossed last night and the streams that were forged mean that my children learned a lesson every parent hopes to be able to impart.  They learned about optimism. Not hope. Not change. I don’t buy the rhetoric any more than you do. Because they’re fleeting. Because they’re taglines. But optimism is mindshift.  It's a way of life. Optimism is not just about overcoming adversity. Optimism is not just about doing what’s right no matter what and believing that it’ll all work out in the end. Optimism is about your bones...that your one little voice can change the world.
And the world. let me remind you, doesn’t look to America, envy America, respect America, and want to emulate America because we make more money than they do.

The world looks to us because here…an ant can overcome a grasshopper.

Friday, October 26, 2012


Saia's Content Entry:
"PEOPLE PIE: The Pumpkin's Revenge"

So, it started off last week with...

"I think I wanna carve out the Death Star," he says. 

I googled it.  Printed out the instructions.  And we...and by that, I mean me...immediately ditched that idea, as just the thought of it made my carpal tunnel flare up.

"I think I really wanna do something spooky scary," she says, "like a haunted house...with vampires...and cats...and blood...and..."

But I still have FOUR...OTHER...PUMPKINS to carve for our own front yard, I'm trying to explain to them. Please have mercy on Mama.

Let's simplify, I prompt.  Sometimes the simplest things carry the strongest message.  And then that somehow triggered...

"Oh!" she yells, "How about we do Barrack Obama and Mitt Romney???"

"I'd rather do Obi Wan and Darth Vadar," he says.

What's the difference, Mama mumbles under her breath.

"Still too complicated," I beg.  "It would require stenciling, and shading, and tools I just don't have in neither my physical nor artistic arsenals."

And then, somehow, during the busiest week I've ever had, the heavens opened up and my brilliant children came up with ideas that they could actually create all on their own. 

And they...were...awesome!

Saia and I baked a little pie crust and put a couple of her dollhouse people inside the baked pie for her Pumpkin's Revenge: The People Pie.

And Chago, of course, decided to play with words...

Chago's Entry: "How does a pumpkin relax before Halloween?"

With "AcuPUMPture," of course!

Saturday, September 29, 2012


"So, how was the party, bubba?" I ask him, as his sister and I walk him home under the full moon.

"Oh, it was great..." he begins, and then launches into a laundry list of oh-so-wonderful things he experienced, as his sister kicks rocks down the hill, seething with jealously.

You see, although they abhor attending parties to which they have BOTH been invited, they appear to be in complete agreement on the fact that the other can NEVER have a better time than they had without them whenever they're invited to separate parties.

So, as he describes the "waaay cool climbing tree," she tells him about the pumpkin spice sundae with caramel sauce she had at the ice creamery while he was gone. And as he shares his new fascination with Star Trek movies and proceeds to explain how each of his buddies clearly takes on each individual personality of the cast in the first movie (not the TV series), she makes sure to one-up him with details of our bike ride to the park to play soccer in the moonlight.

And for every cupcake, hamburger, party game, and goodie bag he puts forth, she's got an equally awesome story about walking Reynita, listening to the frogs at the park, and watching her bike reflectors light up with passing vehicle headlights.

And by 3/4 of the way home, my head is about to explode from the twin terror tête-à-tête...until...he gets to the toilet.

"So, the best part of the night," he says with his trademark smirk, "was their toilet."

"Their what?" I ask, as we round the corner past the house with the magnolia trees so fragrant I feel instantaneously transported back to the Garden District in New Orleans.

"The potty, Mom," he says, clearly translating now for the lesser species and snapping me out of my déjà vu.

"Yes, I understand, son, but what was so great about it?" -- fully aware that I just willingly and wontonly opened the door to a potential flood of boy birthday party bathroom humor...

"Well," he began, cocking his head slightly as he turned towards Saia, "it had all these buttons."

"Buttons?" she asks timidly, also well aware of his penchant for punning...

"Like a command center," he says.

"What were they for," she sidles up next to him.

"Oh, different things," he says, attempting nonchalance, but blatantly laying the bait.

"Did you push 'em?" she bites, so fully engaged now that they can barely put one foot in front of the other.

"Mmm-hmm," he says, smiling.

"Annnnnd?!" she gesticulates wildly.

"It squirted water," he says.

"Eww!!" she gasps. "It squirted water at you?! From the potty?!?!"

Quickly realizing he's about to lose her fascination to disgust, he stops walking to better explain with accompanying hand gestures.

"No, no," he says, "it's CLEAN water, like when you flush. It shoots up this little stream of water to your...(he glances over at me)...butoire (a made up Frenchified word we used when they were little to refer to their bottoms)."

She looks over at me immediately, knowing they were treading into territory verboten. Intent on hearing the end of this story myself -- without influencing the outcome, if possible -- I just nodded my silent assent for them to continue.

She turns back to him, as they begin walking slowing down the last hill, and he continues, "It's a soft spray. It doesn't go inside or anything," which, apparently, was a huge concern for her because it immediately put her at ease.

"Oh, so, what do the other buttons do?" she asks.

"Well, they pretty much all do the same kinda thing...just heights..."

"But what's it FOR?" she finally asks.

And I begin my very short explanation by alluding to that ridiculous toilet paper commercial with the family of bears with pieces of TP all stuck to their bottoms...

"So, anyway... how long were you in the bathroom, bubba?" I break in.

"Oh, I don't know," he said, "but Beckman had to come find me."

"Did you ask Max anything about the toilet? Did you even tell him you liked it?"

"Oh, no," he said, aggressively shaking
his head. "Not one person said anything about it all, but..."

"What?" she prods.

"Well, they all had this weird look on their face when they came out of there the first time."

" know, son," I interject, "those toilets are actually called bidets. They're European..."

And the pun. Did not. Elude him.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Thoughts at 9:11 on 9/11

It was still dark out when my brother called me. My alarm hadn't even gone off yet. Nothing good ever comes from those calls.

He was in Texas. I was in Seattle. "Turn on your TV," he said. And we just sat there...for a good hour...just watching. Together.

I hate how the events of that day have redefined our personal and our nation's sense of security and freedom forever. I ache for the needless loss of life, for those that still suffer, and for those that will also mourn the other 364 days of every single year for those they've lost.

But there is something inexplicably magnificent for me about the fact that this day and that moment will always link my brother and me.

Thursday, June 14, 2012


The last day of 3rd grade sucks.

It may as well be the end of the world, it sucks on the suck-o-matic scale of suckiness so bad.

And no, I'm not being melodramatic. You don't know! You're not here!

The days of single-digit birthdays...GONE!

The days of holding out on sleepovers precisely because of the single-digit age...GONE!

The days of holding hostage all-day, multi-kid play dates because they were just to young to be trusted in large groups, and too young meant until you're in 4th grade...GONE!

The days of school field trips if and only if one of their parents could tag along and photodocument the entire escapade for the eternal baby books...GONE!

The days of succumbing to my fashion desires because it would make a much better picture than a tank top and sports shorts...GONE!

The days of deciding for them what summer camps, extra-curricular activities, student council activities, talent show entries, and book reports they should do because, of course, I always know what's best, which also happened to be what they really really really want but didn't know they wanted...GONE!

The days of allowing your parents to influence your choice of buddies, which is almost always based on your parents' ability to even remotely tolerate their parents...GONE!

And, based on our recent viewing of "We Bought A Zoo," the days of not being so grossed out by two people kissing that you squirm yourself into a frenzied fit of giggles...

Well...luckily...I still have that one, dammit.

Friday, June 08, 2012


Silly, I know, that something as simple as her insisting on gassing up our vehicle and cleaning the windshield could suddenly make me see her as a CEO, Nobel Peace Prize Winner, Olympic champion, and mother of six.

But it does.

Sunday, June 03, 2012


It's days like these that remind you why stopping to smell the roses is time-tested and true.

The boy out golfing with his Mommy. And the girl with me at her BFF's pool party. And for the first time in quite a few weeks, my shoulders have dropped below my ears and my sigh is is more inhale than exhale.

Saturday, June 02, 2012


I love to watch her pitch. Lovelovelove it. It thrills me from a place I all too often forget exists.

Her strength. Her confidence. Her style. Are all her own. And as much as her Mommy or I would love to take credit for it, I think she's actually become this in spite of us.

Today, she pitched like she's been playing for years, like it was second nature, like it would be silly to be doing just about anything else. And then, while we're all still sitting there jaw-dropped and grinning from ear to ear, she catches a line drive. Just 'cause she can.

Monday, May 21, 2012


No. No way these are my babies. Isn't it bad enough that twelve times a day we have to tell ourselves that they're growing up too fast???

We have to content ourselves with the fact that maybe they'll still need us to pack their lunches for a few more years, bandage up their owies for a few more years, read them bedtime stories for a few more years. But then what?

Do we really need to flash forward 15 years?? Do I really need to be reminded that they're actually not gonna live under my boob, tied snugly to my apron strings forever? Why? Why is that necessary? Can't you just leave me to my delusions? Ugh.

Damn, you, Career Day, for throwing me into a tailspin this morning and making me bawl all the way to work.

But here's your next great fashion house mogul and the CEO of the next top animation studio anyway.

I hope you're happy.

Sunday, April 01, 2012


It was a good one. It was. If I do say so myself!! :)

Right before bed last night, I poured two bowls of plain Chex cereal, which they really are not fond of AT ALL. But I piled a little sugar on it (which I NEVER do) and dotted it with a couple of fresh strawberries and blackberries.

Lifting their cereal out whole!
I filled it with water, but poured in a tiny bit of milk to add just the right coloring to make it believable enough.

Then I stuck in their spoons and plopped them in the freezer.

This morning, as they sat down for breakfast, I managed to get the bowls to the table without them noticing. What I find most hilarious in the video clip below is that they're most disappointed that they thought they were getting a bowl of plain Chex cereal. :D

Click PLAY below to watch their surprise!

Oh, but, wait, there's more!

Like mother, like daughter, I'm very proud to say. My Saia, evidently, began planning her gotcha late last night.  When I tucked her in, I noticed a small pile of clothes folded neatly beneath her pillow.  Too young for me to panic just yet, I smiled and whispered if it was part of Chago's April Fools. She began to giggle uncontrollably, and, honestly, I don't know how she got any sleep as excited as she was to kick this off.

But she managed to wake up all on her own at 5:30am. She quickly got dressed, made her bed, changed the clock to 8:45, and turned on the lights.

She tapped Chago awake (it took her 4 times, she said), and told him it we were running late and that I needed them to get downstairs for breakfast right away.

He fumbled out of his bed, rubbing the sleep out of his eyes and dragging his stuffed tiger down the stairs.  He'd made it all the way down to the middle landing before she just couldn't take it anymore and burst out into full-blown belly laughs.

I could hear him say, "What's wrong?"

And she yelled, "April Fools!!"

"Huh?" he said.

"April Fools, bubba!! It's only 5:30 in the morning!"

"Oh," he said, and he walked back up stairs and crawled right back into bed.

Later...much much later...he did acknowledge to her that it was a good one and that she officially got him. :)

Chago even got one in on his Mema, too, when he called her to tell her his Mommy had taken him to get his gorgeous locks shaved into a mohawk for this birthday!

How did your April Fools day go???

Saturday, March 31, 2012


Are best for doing chores. Especially when it means that softball practice is cancelled and our favorite farmer's market is down due to the deluge. But spirited, recently ungrounded 9-year-olds would heartily disagree.

So instead, as we've had to do so often since they first learned to speak, we've struck a bargain.

For every thank-you card they write, they'll earn 10 minutes of computer time. They've still got cards they haven't written for the play they were in, Christmas gifts, and now birthday gifts, for goodness sakes! I'm now thinking this could severely backfire on me.

For every stack of laundry they put away (properly), they'll earn a half-hour of uninterrupted Mama-nag-free time. This one, clearly, will be more taxing on me.

And for every basketful of toys/books/chincheria they put in its proper place, they'll earn an extra 15 minutes of staying up past their bedtime tonight. :)

As you know, though, saying it and following it through are very often two completely different things. The inevitable catch-22 of the exhausted parent. But I'll let you know how it actually turns out.

In the meantime, what are some ways you ensure you're not the only one working 7 days a week around your house? Please please share. We could use all the help we can get 'round here!

Monday, March 05, 2012


I post this knowing that Rhonda's gorgeous little works of snack bag art make my stuff look like a pre-schooler, BUT...

It's fun to play with markers; it makes the boring healthy snacks inside appear to be a little more palatable; and the kids seem to really get a kick out of it.

Are you a closeted snack bag artist, too?  Let's see your stuff!! Post links in the comments so we can praise your inner Picasso. :)

Happy Monday, y'all!

Thursday, February 23, 2012


I change purses. A lot.

I thought briefly about getting one of those Kangaroo Pouch things that are supposed to help you transfer your items quickly and collectively from one purse to the other.  Of course, this assumes all your purses are roughly the same size. And that you don't just toss your things willy-nilly into your bag. And that you actually pay attention to AND utilize those thousand-and-one loops and pockets to keep them all organized.

These. Assumptions. Would. Be. Wrong.

Which is just one more reason not to watch TV at 3am with a credit card within reach because something about the witching hour makes you forget or block out the things you would NEVER EVER find remotely appealing or attractive in the light of day. It's like beer goggles, only without the beer. HSN or QVC goggles, then.  No, really, those trendy top t-shirt wrap things are next on my list.

Luckily, my credit cards were maxed out.  (Whodda thought that'd ever be a positive???)  So, I've really become quite the expert at transferring my must-haves from bag to bag without the assistance of a faux marsupial pouch. And somehow, in this ever-aging mind that can't hardly recall what I had for lunch yesterday, I've developed some sort of muscle memory that magically allows me to never forget my garage door opener, my driving glasses, prescription sunglasses, sunglasses for pretty, and sunglasses specifically to double as a headband, my first aid kit (with the must-have extras of travel tissue, purell, a gigantic sheep of a tampon, and advil, of course), a couple of pens and drawing pads for the boy and at least two or three action figures, rubber balls and coins for spinning on restaurant tables for the girl, a pack of crayons, my King Ranch make-up bag from my sister-in-law, and, of course, my keychain with at least 3 as yet unidentified keys.

But what I've also come to notice during the regular performance of this ritual is that I actually have a few favoritefavoritefavorite things, which is unusual for me, as I've never been one to glom on to favorite foods or colors or objects, for fear that I'd be pigeon-holed or categorized or gifted only green faberge eggs for the rest of my life.  And yes, I do realize that's a whole 'nother discussion for my therapist, so let's just keep movin'.

Despite my efforts to the contrary, however, these little things keep floating to the top of my list, and will always always make it into every single purse, including very tiny evening bags, so I thought I'd share them with you to see how they compare with yours.  And while, no, none of these companies have approached me (yet) for product endorsement, I would like to go on the record as saying I'm always willing to whore myself out for something I love.

So, without further ado...these are a few of my favorite things:

Sexy MotherPucker Lipgloss from Sephora (adore! plus the name
is just a bonus!!)

Bath and Body Stress Relief 
Hand Lotion (travel size in my truck for red lights and bad traffic)

Roll-on Prada 
Infusion d'Iris 

Kensington Portable iPhone Charger 
(always charged. seriously.)
Ice Breakers FROST 
Breath Mints in Wintercool

L'Oreal Colour Riche 
Lip Liner (in a number of shades)

Octopus Hair Clips from The Pulga for $1 a Piece (the BEST for any hair!!!)

Cheapy Cheap NYC or 
Wet n Wild Eye Liners 
in Blacks and Browns

My Moleskine Mini-Notebook
(for writer's block breakthroughs)

And Some Random Bic Pens 
(since my son tends to hijack 
ALL my good ones)

And that's about it.

You no doubt have noticed the intentional omission of my iPhone from these lists. But I consider this a 5th appendage, a vital organ. It shall not be relegated to accessories. Let's not be silly, rabbit.

Now you.

What are some of your ab-fab favorites that you can't shan't won't live without?? (Pics of the inside of your purse will suffice, as this little project has already taken up half my freakin' morning.)

Thursday, February 16, 2012


Sock-hiking Station (to keep the ticks out!!)

Field trip day!!!

Smiley face / frowny face.

Loaded up my truck with boys, bags, and one other mom. Made it to the park without getting lost. Then...noticed I had no service. None.  No uploading pics. No tweeting. No facebooking. No nothing. Just me and them and nature. For HHHOOOUUURRRSSS!!!  And I instantly regretted not having picked up my venti chai before leaving town.

Pre-hike Huddle
As the naturalist begins to explain the plan for the day, literally rubbing the sleep out of her eyes and combing her bedhead hair with her fingers, it becomes very clear that she must've just rolled in about 5 minutes ago. Unable to decide if we were gonna first go down by the lake or up onto the hill, or whether she even had any actual artifacts with her today to show, or whether she was gonna eat or wear her homemade jewelry, I wondered briefly if anyone would really notice if I just took my kid and ditched.

What luck! Owl puke!!!
Not 20 yards into our hike, though, Nelly the Naturalist stops all excitedly because, oh my God, look how serendipitous, a fresh pile of owl puke! Yay!! scream all the third graders. And then, look, kids, another lucky find, a ton of little dead mice heads nearby. Wait, she says, it's because they were IN the owl vomit!! And then, with all eyes on her, she begins to dig into the owl pellet and pry it open. She brings it up to her nose and inhales deeply. "Ooooh," she says, and all 26 kids take two steps closer.  All 12 parents take 3 steps back.

And Mice Carcasses Inside!!
Another 10 yards and lo and behold, our sharp-as-a-tack guide misses the turnoff for our trail. Yay! Let's put her in charge of leading our children thru poison oak and rattlesnakes!!

How is it, again, that I do not own a flask?

At the top of the hill, she explains to us that the Ohlone people used tulle to make their dome homes because it was flexible, a good insulator, and bouyant. Great info, right? Yeah, except that without taking a breath, she then points to a domed concrete enclosure at the top of the other hill, says something about sewer, and then about football stadiums.

Ohlone dome hut
made from tulle
Everyone looks completely confused. My son, especially, having particular difficulty envisioning Lucas Oil Stadium made entirely out of sewer-laden tulle.  But their teacher immediately shook her head and with quick teacher-to-student gestures, stealthily explained that the two had nothing to do with the other.

All the kids smiled and nodded. Gertie the Guide, completely oblivious, just kept right on trucking.

Taking a turn down the hill and towards the lake, Naturalist Nancy stops and squats. The children descend upon her. I can barely hear what she's saying from beneath the pile of third grader appendages, but she appears to be putting something in her mouth, and a few of the kids nearest her also seem to be chewing something (gum, as it later turned out).

'Shroooooooms, dude!
Two things cross my mind at this point: 1) my child better not be putting anything in his mouth that was growing in the middle of this trail, and 2) she never washed her hands after the owl puke thing.

As she begins to explain the nutritional aspects of mushrooms, which she unnervingly continues to refer to as "'shrooms," one of the kids asks her how people back then knew which ones were poisonous. Rather than provide the obvious answer that when someone died, that's how you knew that one was poisonous, she instead launches into a whole diatribe about how THE Coyote told them.  With arms swirling in the sky, she sing-songs about the great spirits who created the world, and how there are Animal People all around us, her eyes wistfully searching the trees and valleys.  I looked around at the terrified parents, wide-eyed and mouths agape, and was just about to interrupt when Nature Girl finally comes back from her 60's reverie and says, "Soooo that's another answer to your question, Eva, where was the beginning?"

"Ummm..." says Eva.

"Ok, let's keep moving," says Oblivious Olive.

The dazed and confused followed Sleepy Scenic Sue around another corner and down another trail. And just as we were about to step down towards the lake, one of the kids points to a pile on the ground and yells, "Owl pellets!" They all rush in, bend down, and are just about to touch it when our naturalist luckily snaps out of her nature zone just in time to stop them from picking up and shoving into their faces what was actually mountain lion poo.

Find of the day: a dead crawfish
So we tromp off around the muddy shoreline where single-file-please means absolutely nothing to anyone, when suddenly the third graders are all squealing and congregating again. Why are the grown ups always the last to know? By the time we get over to them, they're passing around a dead crawfish that Chago found and claimed, like it's gold, and they're all giggling at the smell of it and making jokes that only 8-year-olds and, apparently, state park naturalists, get.

Once we finally make it up to the education center, and I'm looking desperately towards the sky for the rain clouds we'd been promised, she pulls out a bunch of recreated artifacts for the kids to touch and feel. Every few seconds, she runs her hands thru her hair, looking a lot like Gene Wilder and more than a little flustered by the presence of so many children, as though she had just looked up and they'd suddenly appeared out of nowhere.

Chago as a tree
"Oh, look," she says, pointing to the top of a nearby tree. Her face is instantly awash with regret. All 26 children get up from where they'd been quietly seated and run over to where she is, encircling her like Lord of the Flies as they ooh and ahh over the tiny little blackbird whose name I didn't catch between her exasperated sighs.

Did she not know she was working with 8-year-olds today, I wondered? Did our real guide call in sick?

one of the bezillion versions of 3rd grade tag
But then it was time to picnic, which was truly the best part of the day. We all pulled out our no-waste lunches, spread out our blankets and munched under the sun. And for the first time since we've been here I noticed how beautiful this space is. It wasn't hard to imagine the Ohlone people living here. It's a perfect little self-sustaining valley. Rolling grassy hills covered with mature oak trees. A lake that, although sadly depleted right now, could easily have been filled with all manner of fish and wildlife and laughing children.

But then, with the sun on my face and the slightest cool breeze in my hair, just as I was beginning to imagine how lovely a very large glass of syrah and a generous charcuterie and cheese plate would be, we moved into Ohlone games and activities, which, among other things, resulted in a surprising little lesson about how peeing on deerhide can make it soft enough to rub against your cheek.

Uh...yeah...thanks for that one.

Ohlone "dice" game
Spearing the rolling hole game

Wednesday, February 15, 2012


Came across a pair of leftover red wax lips from the Halloween loot stashed up in my pantry this morning as I was searching for some condensed milk to try on top of fresh avocados (damn Pinterest!).

This is what easily distracted looks like. And no, my children weren't even home yet.

Wednesday, February 08, 2012


"Hey, Bubba, it's time to go!" I yell from the bottom of the playground after school one day.

I see him look over at me, hang his head, and begin the long, slow, bridesmaid descent down the stairs.

Oh, great, I immediately think. What's he done now?


Maybe he just had a few too many blurt outs in Science again.


Maybe he just didn't eat his lunch again.


Maybe he just got busted saying a bad word and sent to the office where they held him until DCFS came because what kind of parent would let their child speak that way and they're just waiting for me in the parking lot...


And then...he started crying. Sobbing. Right there into my chest. Not picking up his arms to hug me, though, because, don'tcha know, that's the universal crybaby/mama's boy sign (apparently), and he, of course, is neither. So he just stands there. Like a wilted Qtip. Sob, sob, sob.

"Baby...what's wrong?" I implore him, desperately restraining my initial instinct to swoop him up into my arms, rock him back and forth, and smother him with kisses.

Heave, sob, gasp, gasp, gasp.

"Bubba, are you okay?" I take his cheeks into my hands. "Are you hurt?"

He shakes his head slowly. I kneel down in front of him, resisting the urge to envelope him like a giant mama bear. And I wait, anxiously, til his eyes finally meet mine.

Then the story spilled out -- in long run-on sentences -- with no punctuation -- and no apparent ending, but it slowly became painfully clear what had happened to my darling 7 lb 10 oz baby jesus.

Evidently, his two best buds had recently been giving him the cold shoulder. Without reason. Without explanation.  And worse, they'd told him they really didn't wanna be his friend anymore.  At the same time, another kinda sorta buddy he's been playing with during his aftercare program off and on had been getting a little physical with him -- in an 8-yr-old, mean boy kinda way.  In his head, though, these were two very distinct problems.

As the story unfolded, however, the middle of which contained a sidebar about his walking up to the 3 of them and asking to join their reindeer game; they, of course, all promptly refused; he walked away dejected and confused; and mama began to suspect that maybe, just maybe, they might be related.

But the fact was he was crushed. Truly crushed. And there's nothing, really nothing worse than seeing your child heartbroken. And for Santiago to be so affected by something...Chago...the king of oblivious...the roll-with-it kid...the whatever-is-my-middle-name boy...I mean, this had to be really significant.  And meaningful.  And, therefore, important to me.  So he sulked about it all weekend. And he pouted.  And he moped.  And we put together a plan to address both issues separately in the hopes that doing so would resolve the central issue entirely.

As I talked through it with him, I gently led him here and there, but really tried to let him figure out on his own how he wanted to handle this.  My job was to mediate, I kept reminding was to project manage this.  To break it down into pieces. Help him prioritize.  Offer him alternatives.  And then ultimately support his decision for resolution.

Oh, my Lord, that's a lot of butting out that was required of me.

What he decided to do then was just so text-book there was no way it would or could work.  But both his Mommy and I agreed that he was doing not only the right thing, but a really brave thing.  That it demonstrated how important his friendships were to him that he was willing to take this bull by the horns.  That we were proud of him for his decision and were behind him 100%.

Secretly, I chewed off all my nails and pulled out a few clumps of hair.

The next day back from school, we anxiously asked him how things turned out, both of us at the edge of our seats.  In his usual Chago-ese way, he nonchalantly said everything was fine.

"Fine?!?!" we said.

But as it turns out, it totally was. He spoke to his buddies first, explained that he didn't like kid #3 because he'd been (apparently!!) punching on Chago in a I'm-short-for-my-age-and-am-overcompensating-by-being-a-jerk sorta way.  Chago hadn't told anyone previously. When he voluntarily stopped playing with Punchy Monkey, kid #3 told Chago's best buddies that it was Chago who was being mean to him. Because he's smaller and seemingly weaker, the boys sided with him and ousted Chago. Once Chago explained it all, they were the three muskateers again.

Part 1, complete.

The very next day, he approached Punchy Puncherson and told him to stop hitting him or he'd have to either rat on him and get him sent to the principal, or hit him back and they'd both be in trouble, but either way he wasn't gonna take it anymore.  He very cleverly left out the part where one or both of us might have offered on his behalf.

And that was it. He took care of it all.

Part 2, complete.

A few days later, he said he was glad he'd handled it on his own, and that it made him feel better about his friends that they listened to his side of the story and understood.


And then...poof!! Absolutely NO residual effects. The whole thing was completely over in 48 hours. And it's as though nothing. ever. happened.

Man, what I would give to be a boy sometimes.

Thursday, February 02, 2012


I did.

I admit it.

I've had anxiety all week. Haven't slept the last two nights.  And had nightmares last night that woke me up with cold sweats.

So, yes, of course, I totally tried to play it off this morning.

Tried to make it seem like it was no big deal, like I wasn't about to erupt into a bawling volcano of fear and don't-let-my-baby-grow-up.

But she woke up in such a good mood. All on her own. And she never does -- either. At least not during the week.  It was all she could talk about over breakfast and on the way to school.  Finally, as we parked in the lot, I turned off the truck and turned my body all the way around to face them.  I looked her straight in the eye and said, "Come home exactly as you're leaving here."

"What?" she said.

And I could feel my throat closing and my eyes welling up.

"Be good. Be safe. Be smart. Look around you. Be aware. Don't follow anyone anywhere, no matter what they say or what they offer. Stay within arm's reach of your teacher. And come home to me exactly as you are right now. Do you understand me?"

"Are you okay, Mom?" she asked.

"Repeat what I just said," I demanded.

She complied -- in between eye rolls.

"Repeat my phone number," I said.

And she did -- to the tune of Jingle Bells, just as I'd taught them on their first day of preschool.


And then I ducked around the corner and watched from afar as they loaded up her 3rd grade class in the bright yellow bus, all jumpy and smiles and not babyish in the least.

And then, yes, I followed -- for just a few blocks -- before I could no longer justify my paranoia, turned around, and headed back to the school where I waited until I saw the bus pull back into the parking lot and her beautiful little face emerged once again.

Safe and sound.

And much too grown up for this Mama. :(

Wednesday, February 01, 2012


So, in this politically charged year, when it's getting harder and harder to remember what it actually means to be a patriot, what really constitutes a citizen, and what a community is truly made of, we decided to sign up for 30 DAYS OF GOOD.  Have you heard of it?

We so loved our Good Deeds Advent Calendar from December that we wanted it continue for as long as possible.

And by we, of course, I mean me.

What I didn't want, though, was for it to become a chore, for it to be something the monsters saw as boring and tiresome, and for it to be more work for me than for them.  But you'd be shocked to know how difficult it is to find a source of random but unique and fun daily good deed ideas.  Even in the bottomless internets.

As it happens, the month of February is about citizenship at GOOD, which I find particularly poignant being that it's also Black History Month.  For our first challenge, GOOD CITIZENSHIP TASK #1, we were asked to learn the history of our neighborhood.

Ugh and blah, is pretty much what I thought, as we live in a primarily upper middle class, primarily white, primarily conservative little bedroom community.

Blah, blah, blah.

But the juice...ah, the juice was right there beneath the surface. :)

This area, evidently, first belonged to a vast and thriving subdivision of a tribe of Ohlone Native Americans.  The Coastoans, as they were referred to, were a cooperative, not competitive, coastal people. They had very strong family ties, and grieved deaths with wails and expressive demonstrations of emotion.

Years later, a large land grant was sold to a very prominent Mexican soldier for $400,000, who eventually gambled away portions of his enormous rancho bit by bit, and returned to Chile, penniless and distraught, where he lived out the remainder of his days with his family.

Wealthy European settlers then took over the area. The missions came through and the Native Americans were either converted to Catholicism or ostracized. The Spanish and a few affluent New England families built up the canyons and valleys and hills, and have remained and thrived in the area.

Both Wikipedia and My Hometown Website provided a wealth of easily accessible, easily digestible info. The kids and I are now on a trek to visit some of the first homes preserved by the historical society.

So, okay. This. Was. Awesome.

And I feel just a little bit closer to the land around me, beneath me, than I did two days ago.  It still doesn't make me love my neighbors any more, but maybe that task'll come further along this month. :)

Maybe y'all can sign up for the 30 DAYS OF GOOD Challenge, too, and share some of your stories with us. We'd love to hear a little about the history of your hometowns, and maybe shrink the size of our neighborhoods at the same time. Go on now, and do some good. :)

Monday, January 23, 2012


Mama's Chalupas Famosos

(olive oil fried mini-corn tortillas,
vegetarian refried beans,
spinach, tomatoes, avocadoes,
and cilantro)

Ok, enough, people! I'm sicksicksick of hearing how many pills my whole family is taking to manage their high blood pressure, and high cholesterol, and heart disease, and Lord knows what else.

And, yes, of course I get that most people don't wanna give up their meat completely.  And I get that vegetarians, in general, get a bad wrap.  And I get that vegans are pretty much a punchline. I get it, I do.  I'm from Texas, too. I love my ribs, and burgers, and fajitas, and menudo, and tamales, and bacon, and chorizo (mmm...) as much as the next girl.

But we're trying.


Sometimes one little change...

Just one small, almost imperceptible change, like...

Taking the stairs instead of the elevator or escalator when you go to the mall...

Or taking the kids for a walk around the block instead of a trip to the ice cream shop...

Or switching your ice cream to fat-free frozen yogurt...

Or cutting out [gasp!] caffeine...

Can end up making a HUGE difference in the long run.  And by long run I mean, of course, your LIFE, for crissakes, or the life of your mother or father or brother or sister.

So, in this new year, this year of the dragon, this year of great change and new energy and amazing progress, we challenge you to join us and pledge that every Monday for the next, um, 49 Mondays (is that right?) will be meatless.  Completely.  No cheating. 'Til the end of the year.

And, yes, I can already hear you bitching about how boring that's gonna be, and how awful everything is gonna taste, and how all you can think of to eat is salad.  But I promise you, it won't. If you just give it a chance -- give yourself a chance -- it really really won't.

We've posted a ton of yummy meals, many of which were completely plant-based, on our food site: The Monsters' Insides, so you can see for yourself.

But to make it even easier for you, if you'll just click here, there are a ton of regular Monday dinner menus all laid out for you on a website called, what else, Meatless Monday (thanks, Project Open Hand, for the great recommendation), so you don't even have to think.  And, yes, there are breakfast and lunch ones, too.

So, no, it's not a really big change, but it's a really significant step, and the difference it could make could be, without trying to sound too overly melodramatic, life-altering.

So...whadaya say? Don'tcha wanna be a Meatless Monday Monster, too? :)  I'd love it if you'd post your Meatless Monday dishes here so we can get through this one together.

YES, I DO! (click here to pledge)

Tuesday, January 17, 2012


Cleaning up downstairs this morning.  We have a basket into which all non-downstairs items are supposed to go so that they can be toted upstairs (theoretically) once a day and get put away.

So...this morning we've got:

- a peace scarf
- a houndstooth fedora
- a silver sparkly headband
- an old advanced white karate belt
- an aqua A&F hoodie
- a mini bop-it
- a Puss 'n Boots DSi game
- a wolf mask
- orange glow-in-the-dark vampire teeth
- and a Chicken Little book

What in the world were they playing yesterday??!? Seriously. This is worse than the bottom of my purse. And I didn't think there could BE anything worse than the bottom of my purse.

But, wow, the stories these daily bottom-of-the-stairs collections could tell. Maybe I need to start a children's book series called At The Bottom of The Stairs.  And then write a 200-word flash fiction story based on the contents of the basket as they rotate daily.  It's like a keyword randomizer. For the Amish.

Hmmm...I might actually be onto something here...

Wednesday, January 11, 2012


So, he comes home last week and casually says that he passed a spelling bee test at school and has been selected as one of his 5 class representatives.

Wait. WHAT?!

What spelling bee?  Like, THE School Spelling Bee, all in title caps kinda spelling bee???

Yes, he replies nonchalantly, which is the way he replies to most things I find thrilling and awesome.

And then I read the crumpled piece of paper he pulls from the bottom of his backpack that explains how, yes, in fact, there was a competition within each class. Each student got an opportunity to spell words from the list that came home a few weeks ago (also found crumpled at the bottom of his backpack), and 5 students were selected from each class.

He was one of them.

These semi-finalists now have to go on to compete against all the other 3rd grade class representatives, from which only 8 will be selected to move on to the finalist round.

And, holy c-o-w, batman, we couldn't have been more proud!

And then...last night...he lost his sheet of spelling words somewhere between here and his Mommy's place.  For the competition -- TODAY.  Lost.  Just like that.

In my head I'd already strung him upside down by his toenails outside our second-story window.  This isn't just any old competition, boy! It's THE BEE, for crissakes!!!! THE BEEEEE!!! What in the world could you be thinking?!?!

But we played it cool, like it was no big deal, and agreed that it was his responsibility, and he now had to be accountable for his actions -- or inaction, as it were.  But inside, I was crushed.  Just crushed.

All my hopes and dreams for him to become a world-famous speller, to win the Nobel Prize for Spelling, to find the cure for cancer...through spelling, of course...were just gone, all g-o-n-e.

There he is, front row, second from left,
no doubt hoping he'll get to spell "vomit" or "flatulence"
And today...the semi-finals. On the way to school, he mentioned that he was a little nervous. And right then and there, I knew I couldn't go.  My excitement was just bubbling on the surface.  The tension was palpable.  The anticipation killing me.  And we hadn't even parked the truck yet.

So, I came home.  And started piddling around the house.  Looking up at the clock every few seconds.  8:30 came and went.  Surely he would've called if he hadn't made it. would've been utterly distraught -- curled into a fetal position in the office. They certainly would've called by now for me to come get him.

Except for the fact that he's oblivious to things like that and pretty much lets everything roll right off his back.

Except for that. Dammit.

And then the texts* started coming in...and...


So, next week all grades compete against one other. 3rd, 4th, and 5th.  And I will gag myself, wear dark shades, and stand outside the door, but, by God, I will be there for this one!

On to the school-wide finals, people...and then...the WORLD!!! Bwahahahahahaha! :)

*Big big big thanks to Rhonda and Antonella, whose little geniuses also made it to the Bee finals, for providing me with play-by-play updates and the photos above as I sat at home biting my nails to the beds.