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. :)