And the Thunder Rolls

Rain, rain, come this way, go away some other day.

Early, early this morning I awoke to a sound I thought I had forgotten.


At first I thought I was dreaming. The last time we heard thunder here was, umm . . . can't even remember. Then I figured the glorious sound was a teaser trick played by the weather gods. After all, if Johnny Mountain and Dallas Raines couldn't forecast the noisy dawn, then there's no way it could be accompanied by massive drops of moisture, right?

9am rolls around and I JUMP out of bed, for what do my little ears hear? Rain, rain, and more rain. Odd on so many levels:

Yes, I was still in bed - I've got a 3 month old that doesn't sleep through the night, so cut me some slack. The kids were not unattended as Nate was still home. Again odd, since his alarm went off just after 7am. I guess some work emergencies call for immediate action, even before showering, getting dressed, and heading to the office.

No, I don't usually JUMP out of bed. Not unless a Thing is screaming bloody murder, and even then, it's more of a crawl, or even a drag out of bed.

Yes, I could actually hear real rain. Real massive sheets of drenching, pounding rain. Loud, even over the sound machine I leave on all night long (I have my reasons - multiple reasons.)

Anyway . . . I ran downstairs, giddy to verify with Nate that it's raining, it's pouring, the old man is snoring! As if the deafening sound on the metal roof wasn't enough. I found Things 2 & 3 leaning over the back of the sofa, looking out the window, amazed at the blessed moisture from heaven. I eagerly joined them and we happily stared out the window for the next 2 short minutes. By then it was over.

What a phenomenal way to start a Monday. Too bad Sketch missed his first, although short-lived rainstorm. Little poop - he slept right through it.

P.S. Right after I hit "Publish Post" (10:10 am) the rain started again!!! Sketch got to witness his 2nd ever rain storm.



After Jack and Addy were at school, Things 3 & 4 and I rushed to JC Penney for Sketch's 3 month portraits.

I'm ridiculously anal when it comes to kid photos - each of mine have had professional portraits taken at: 3 mon, 6 mon, 9 mon, 12 mon, 18 mon, 2 year, 3 year, 4 year, 5 year, K, 1st, 2nd, and 3rd grades. This year, we'll add 4th grade to the list, 5th grade next year, etc. until each of the kids leaves home. Blame my mom for this OCD activity - she made sibling portraits an annual tradition when I was growing up and now I can't seem to break the habit.

Anyway . . . each time we've moved I've had to find a new portrait studio. Sometimes it's an Olan Mills, sometimes it's Sears, here in southern California it's JC Penney. Our local studio employs an all-digital format with free moving cameras so the photographer can get up-close and personal. This method provides for outstanding results. Each time I have a kid photographed I end up with unique shots that truly capture their personality. And the cost? Extremely low if you use a coupon - yes, I always use a coupon. Again, thanks mom.

So then why do I HATE going to JC Penney for my kids' portraits? Let me tell you about my Friday experience.

We arrive at 11:25 for an 11:30 appointment. The employee at the desk is talking with a customer on the phone and has 3 other customers either waiting to sign in for their appointment or waiting to pick up their portraits. Another employee is at a computer screen helping a customer review the digital images from their sitting. A third employee is with a customer, taking photos. And a fourth employee escapes to a back room for ??? Yes, this chaos comes standard with each visit. As soon as we arrive, Ellie announces that she needs to pee. Sketch needs a diaper and a wardrobe change, so we head to the restroom.

We get back to the studio and proceed to wait for 30 minutes before being called for our sitting. The photographer is ultra friendly, to the point of being unprofessional. No, using nicknames for your adult client is NOT a good idea. Sketch is cooperative and within just minutes the sitting is over. I'm confident that we got more than one fabulous photo.

After the sitting Ellie announces that she needs to pee again. And so again we are off to the restroom. Not a big deal, since the next hour or so is just to be spent waiting for an opportunity to review the sitting photos. Why such a long wait, you might ask. Aren't all these photos digital? Shouldn't they be available for immediate review? You would think so, except that a photo professional (meaning studio employee) needs to add enhancements and configure photos into cutesy arrangements for greeting cards and calendars, etc. So not necessary. I once made the mistake of telling the photo professional that I didn't want any of the amended photos and would rather look at the raw images than wait an hour for something I wouldn't buy. Ummmm . . . let's just say her response was not an example of appropriate customer service.

Finally it was my turn to review the sitting photos. While the studio has 4 computers available for reviewing photos, only one is used, since there is only one photo professional to assist clients in photo selection. I held my tongue as the photo professional scrolled through the multi-image enhancements and the greeting cards/calendars, complete with sappy text. By this time Ellie needed to pee again, so I made my selections (yes, it took me a while to create the perfect combination of sizes/images), paid (yes, it took the photo professional a while to figure out the coupon), and scheduled my pickup time (no, I won't actually be showing up at my appointed time to pick up my portraits - I'll be back whenever convenient, and convenience cannot be scheduled!)

We made one final trip to the restroom and were free! It only took 3 hours to get in and get out. Why, why, why do I do this to myself? I'll tell you why - a lack of efficient customer service is easily overlooked when an outstanding product is provided at an extremely reasonable price. And yes, I'll be back in 3 months for Sketch's next sitting.

Breakfast - peanut butter crackers
Lunch - EasyMac for Jack, can't remember for Ellie, Diet Dr. Pepper for me
Dinner - soup, I think

Wednesday and Thursday


Amy walked Jack to school
Finished preparations for the evening's Primary Board Meeting
Made Cookies & Cream Brownies for meeting
Painted Ellie's toenails
Amy picked Jack up at school and Ellie up from the house for an afternoon play date
Cleaned the fish tank
Did 4 loads of laundry - including my sheets
****I have a stash of Gain detergent used exclusively for my sheets. Nate thinks I'm weird, but apparently I am not the only one. He DVRd the following commercial for me: Man with wife in car drives up to a convenience store. Voiceover says she has cravings for Gain detergent when she is pregnant. Man buys Gain and drives home. Wife walks to the front door while inhaling the scent of the detergent. Voiceover says he wonders when the cravings will end, as he carries an older baby up the walk. Yes, Gain (in the green jug) does smell that good.
Addy walked from school to Activity Days
Got kids dinner, showered, and jammied
Drove to stake center for board meeting
The kids kept occupied and Jack ran away only twice
Drove home
Kids went to bed 2 hours late

Breakfast - who knows
Lunch - Jack had EasyMac, Ellie had PB&J (of COURSE I want jam), I had Diet Dr. Pepper
Dinner - can't remember. Probably something out of the freezer. Pizza maybe?


Park day started early so Jack could have a chance to try out his new birthday bike. He's gone from a 16" to a 20" and can no longer sit on the saddle while touching the ground. He's had to figure out a new way to start and stop his bike. He seemed to get the hang of it pretty quickly, although the learning wasn't without a couple nasty spills. What's a new bruise or two for a growing boy?

I walked Jack to school directly from the park and had just returned only to have Ellie come running and screaming - she'd stayed behind to play with a friend. From the sound of her hysteria I thought she'd lost a limb. Nope. She'd just peed her pants. Yes, peed her pants. Now my little Ellie doesn't pee her pants in public. Really, she doesn't pee them at home either. She's too much of a bathroom connoisseur. She loves sitting on the toilet, and flushing the toilet, and soaping her hands, and rinsing her hands, and drying her hands. She'd never choose to miss out on a bathroom opportunity by peeing her pants. I was ready to let her play in her wet clothes (and shoes - yes, the pee ran down her legs into her shoes) until a friend pulled out her son's extra clothes and offered them to Ellie. More likely than not I would've just gone home early and been bitter angry about missing out on park time with my friends. Luckily I didn't have to. Ellie was thrilled to wear Brandon's underwear (yes, she knows they aren't panties) and pants, and I was thrilled to delay dealing with her accident.

After the kids got home from school we loaded back into the car and headed to the doctor's for Jack's TB test read. I was so relieved that Jack believed me when I told him that this would be a simple visit with no shots - after all, last time I told him that the doctor made a complete liar of out me. A quick once over by a nurse and Jack had a clean bill of health.

We stopped at Long's and Henry's for provisions and then it was on to Addy's soccer practice. This time Ellie actually had a chance to unpack and play with her soccer time toys. I sat in a camp chair and took in the nostalgia of the moment. The setting sun, the cooling air, the scent of the cut grass . . . strip away 15 years and it could've been band practice with Mr. Payton. So very glad those days are in the past, although life was much simpler then.

We rushed home after soccer practice and I sent the kids straight to bed. I'm not sure they actually brushed/flossed before bed. Come to think of it, they probably didn't brush/floss the whole time Nate was gone. Cavities are a small price to pay for sanity, right? I had about 20 minutes to clean the house and prepare my provisions for book club. Originally I wasn't scheduled to host, but my accommodating friends were willing to switch things up when I told them I couldn't attend because I don't do babysitters on school nights.

We were up until 11pm discussing "The Glass Castle" - a great read, and timely, especially if you're feeling like a lousy parent. We ate tomato and avocado with fresh mozzarella, grapes, strawberries, and four kinds of cheesecake. Sugar and a good book. Who could ask for anything more?

Breakfast - probably cereal
Lunch - EasyMac for Jack, bagel with cream cheese for Ellie, Diet Dr. Pepper for me
Dinner - McDonalds cheeseburgers and fries


Almost home free

I don't know if I should even try to recount the past 4 days. Nate called about a minute ago and said he's landed at LAX, although he's not yet off the plane. I'd rather forget the last week even happened, but then I think of all the comic relief I'd be depriving you of. Maybe tomorrow I'll have the energy to put finger tips to keyboard. It's gonna be a long one . . .


Monday and Tuesday

Writing about Monday is almost pointless because I can barely remember for the life of me what happened that day. And it was only 2 days ago . . . I do know I didn't do any dishes, cleaning, or laundry. Ooh yeah - we did go swimming at our neighbor Pam's house. She's the most amazing neighbor ever, and definitely deserves a post of her own.

Also! Sketch rolled over from him tummy to his back for the first time.

Breakfast - couldn't tell ya
Lunch - Easy Mac for Jack, bagel w/ cream cheese for Ellie, Diet Dr. Pepper for me
Dinner - Chicken Alfredo out of a box

I knew Tuesday was going to be a tough one long before Nate left town. It was one of those days where the responsibilities piled high and complications overlapped.

Monday night I had to park the car on the next street over because the city had our street scheduled for resurfacing Tuesday. Because of unavoidable errands I had to make sure my car was available, even though I was a little nervous having it parked on the street all night. We do live in the safest city of its size in the US though, so I guess I really only had to worry about ravens doing target practice.

Ellie, Sketch, and I walked Jack to school then returned home so I could complete the PTA Audit prior to our first association meeting of the year. As soon as Jack and Addy got home from school we rushed to the doctor's for Jack's back-to-school physical. Nervous doesn't begin to describe Jack's reaction to word that a doctor's visit was pending. I assured him that he was up-to-date on all his immunizations and this would just be a quick visit.

I guess I spoke too soon. Jack had never had a TB test before and his school physical form asked for TB test results. The doctor was only too willing to comply - maybe he was in a less than perfect mood after chatting with me in a 5' x 8' room filled with disruptive and disobedient Things. Once Jack saw the nurse with a needle he broke into hysterics. Holding down a 45lb, 45 1/2 inch kid requires more strength and skill than I currently have available - especially when I'm holding another very small kid who screams at all loud noises. The poor nurse . . . oh wait, never mind that. More like poor me. At least she gets paid to deal with stresses like screaming kids and flailing arms and legs. Frankly, I'm surprised we all walked away with bones intact and skin unbroken. Now I'm just trying to figure out how to get Jack back into the office to have the TB injection point read on Thursday . . .

We returned home just in time for a minute or two of homework before having to deal with soccer practice. Without fail, each soccer day comes with, "I can't find my socks", and "Where's my ball?", and "Why do I have to wear a shirt", etc. My patience pool was long dried up thanks to the festivities of Sunday morning - if only someone would invent a "PatiPen" for emergency injections of patience. I alone would keep that company in business.

Somehow we managed to make it back into the car, complete with shirts, balls, and dirty socks (again with that laundry). Jack's practice started at 5:30, and Addy's at 5:45. Unfortunately, their practice fields are 6 miles and approximately 20 traffic lights apart. As it happens, one of Addy's coaches lives near Jack's field and has offered to pick Addy up there and drive her to her own practice. Last week her service was a godsend. Of course this week, she forgot.

I unloaded Things 2-4 for Jack's practice and had Addy stand on the sidewalk to wait for her coach. Minutes passed, Sketch screamed, Ellie unpacked her special soccer toy bag, and my anxiety level rose. Whenever I saw a familiar vehicle I grabbed Addy and ran, knowing that time was running short and her coach would be in a hurry. Yet none of the cars we ran for had the occupant we were looking for. When 5:45 rolled around I gave up hope and with serious exasperation stuffed Ellie's toys back into her bag and threw Things 1, 3, and 4 back into the car. I left Jack at the field and prayed I would be back before his practice ended. 6 miles, mostly red lights, and 15 minutes later I dropped Addy off at her practice, hoping she wouldn't be penalized for her tardiness.

I turned around and headed back to Jack's practice, detouring through Carl's Jr. for a dinner pick-up. Jack finished within minutes of my arrival at his field and I turned around once again to pick Addy up at hers, although she officially wouldn't be done for another 15 minutes. I'm really not used to this much run-around in one day. And yet I want to complicate it by putting Ellie in dance - please shoot me now.

Addy's early pickup was not out of convenience, but rather necessity. Straight from Addy's practice we went to the elementary school for the first PTA association meeting of the year. Typically I would've bagged the evening, except that I had a completed audit that needed to be presented and adopted prior to next week's district meeting.

Things 1-3 were stashed at the back of the MPR room with burgers and juice boxes and I tried to feed an exhausted, inconsolable Sketch while minimizing my disruption of the meeting. Thankfully the PTA president had paid for an on-site babysitter. Not only was my patience pool still depleted, but my stamina reserves were dangerously low. If it hadn't been for friends in attendance who insisted on helping herd the kids to the car, I would've gladly left Things 1-3 to fend for themselves through the night at the school. After all, they'd need to be back for class in just a few hours.

At long last we arrived home - only 2 hours after bedtime. I doubt any of the kids brushed or flossed before bed, but I was too tired to care. It was one night where any nagging concern for cavities was easily shoved out of my head.

Breakfast - cereal, maybe?
Lunch - Easy Mac for Jack, peanut butter (no, I DON'T WANT JAM) sandwich for Ellie, Diet Dr Pepper for me
Dinner - Carl's Jr. big cheeseburgers, juice boxes, apple slices, granola bars (I'm still trying to figure out how I had the wherewithal to plan ahead)


Addy had soccer photos at the lake fields smack dab in the middle of Sacrament Meeting. Not that I was planning to attempt 1st hour with all 4 Things by myself. But I did need to be at church for 2nd & 3rd hours - a Primary Secretary's work is never done. So we all got up and dressed, Addy in her soccer uniform and the rest in church clothes, and headed north to the lake. Parking was easier than I expected, considering half the city had their kids on site for picture taking. If only the sun had been as accommodating. We all melted in the heat for lack of shade and Jack made use of the grass for break dancing. Why can't that kid resist the urge to dirtify himself? But eventually all the team members showed up and the pictures were taken.

We rushed back to the car - action made possible by flip flops rather than church shoes (for once I planned ahead) - and drove south to church. Despite the traffic signals conspiring against me, we arrived just as Primary began. The next couple hours went pretty smoothly. 3 of 4 Things were under the supervision of other adults and my rolls were completed satisfactorily.

After church Jack was nowhere to be found. Usually I don't have to search high and low for my kids. They know that if they aren't at the car when I'm ready to leave they risk being left and having to walk 3.5 miles home. Of course this would be the day that Jack decides to put my threat to test. IF ONLY I could bring myself to follow through. Instead I pulled out of my parking space and drove to the far end of the lot to wait for him. I at least wanted him to think I had left him behind. 5 minutes later Jack emerges from the building and doesn't even notice that the car is missing. Instead, he goes about his business playing tag or hide-and-seek or whatever juvenile entertainment trumped his survival instinct. After another 5 minutes of waiting I drove up to the sidewalk where he was playing and slowly rolled by, hoping he would notice. He didn't - not until I rolled down the window and asked if he wanted to walk home. Even then he exhibited no signs of panic. He just casually sauntered to the car and hopped in. Sometimes I wish we lived way back when leaving your kid behind was character building instead of grounds for criminal prosecution . . . he totally would've been walking home.

The rest of the afternoon was spent cleaning out the playroom. Oh yes, I failed to mention that prior to leaving for Addy's soccer photo, the Things refused to spend 10 minutes cleaning up and now faced the consequence of significant toy disposal. Earlier in the morning they didn't believe me when I told them that if they didn't care enough about their toys to take care of them, then they didn't care enough to keep them and I would gladly throw them away. Oh the drama that ensued - serious wailing and gnashing of teeth was surely heard for miles in all directions. And yes, I was glad to do it. How else are they ever to learn? Now I have a massive box of toys to get rid of. I doubt I'll throw them away; more likely the local freecyclers will benefit from my Things' ambivalence to my promise (yes, this time it wasn't an empty threat.)

Breakfast - not sure. I was getting ready for church.
Lunch - Diet Dr Pepper for me. Nothing for the Things. They were stuck in their bedrooms until I decided I wanted them to watch me dispose of toys.
Dinner - can't remember. Obviously nothing that required planning . . . or effort.

Single parenting . . .

. . . is hardly my idea of a good time. Last week Nate made arrangements for an "emergency" trip to China. Timing wasn't great, but I figured I could manage. After all, in the past I've dealt with his traveling pretty well. At least we've all been alive and unscathed upon each of his returns. But that kind of reasoning just proves the land of denial was sneaking up on me again. Evidently I spend much of my life there.

I know, I know - whatever doesn't kill me makes me stronger, right? Does that mean whatever doesn't kill my kids makes me stronger too? Stay tuned for the rundown on my daily happenings . . .


Six years of Spratacus

He's a monkey, he's a clown, he's a charmer, he's the ultimate monster . . . he's Jack Spratacus!

Not 3 months old - now he mostly sleeps through the night and is pretty self-sufficient in the bathroom.

Not 1 year old - although he still climbs on everything.

Not 2 years old - now he's tall enough to ride the scary rides, but he'd rather not scare his heart.

Not 3 years old - he definitely has bigger muscles now. Just ask him.

Not 4 years old - but he still makes faces (and says naughty words), especially to get a laugh.

Not 5 years old - Pj's are no longer acceptable attire on school mornings.

Now Jack is 6 whole years old!

Time flies by, but some things never change. Jack's as crazy and fun-loving as ever. With goofy faces, mischievous giggles, inappropriate jokes . . . some things just get better with age.

Happy 6th to ya, Sprat Man. Here's a hug, squeeze, kiss, hi-five, kaboom (that's exploding knuckles, to you not in the know.) Love, love, love, love, love, love YOU little man!

Still no party

Poor kid. I still couldn't do it. Jack's 6th birthday has come and gone and he's still never had a real party. I have some unreasonable mental-block toward party planning, and I have a definite fiscal-block toward paying for one of those destination party places. Last year I took the easy route and made cupcakes for park day.

Perfection! Most of his friends gathered in one place, no invitations, no decorations, no presents, no favors, no games, no food, etc. Minimal stress. It worked so well I followed suite for Ellie's birthday in May.
Prior to this year's festivities I stressed for quite a while - the problem is I can't seem to make any decisions or even figure out where to start. Dinosaurs or pirates? At the house or at the park? Friends from church and/or from school? Favor bags? Lunch, dinner, snack, or just cake and ice cream? I'm paralyzed by all the options - strangely reminiscent of eating at a restaurant where the menu has more than one page (Cheesecake Factory is a nightmare!)

Another issue was kindergarten. Jack wouldn't be at park day, so simple cupcakes with friends were out. And although his K teacher said it was fine to bring in a treat for a mini class celebration, the treat had to be within the school district's nutrition guidelines. So cupcakes were out altogether. Back to square one - how can it qualify as a party if you can't have cake?

So now I had to figure out:

1. To have or not to have a party

2. A class treat that falls within the extremely restrictive district nutrition guidelines, yet allows for insertion of a candle to be blown out after singing "Happy Birthday"

3. How to make a 3D T-Rex cake

4. How to cast a time freeze spell so I could get everything done before the big weekend - why can't we seem to keep it pared down to a single day???

As it happened, I spent too much time in the land of denial and had to bag the whole party idea. Maybe birthday 7 will be a little more lucky.

I ended up making 3 dozen blueberry muffins for the 31 kids+teacher in his kindergarten class (yes, his class really is that large, and no, it's not because of overlapping schedules, but rather because of stingy district funding.) Oddly enough, more than one child said, "No, thank you" to the muffins. I really don't blame them - the palate is confused by muffins after hearing a rousing rendition of "Happy Birthday".
I found a 3D stegosaurus cake pattern and figured Jack would just have to deal, as would I, since I couldn't get the fondant spikes finished in time and had to settle for candy corn.

And finally, no, I couldn't figure out that time spell. That's probably my biggest disappointment, as right now I could really use some sleep.


Unclog my cynicism drain

I’m a cynical person – always have been. Really, it’s not just a dry sense of humor. I’m not sure why I have a hard time giving people and situations the benefit of the doubt. I remember a time as a child when my dad told me that while skepticism was healthy and acceptable, cynicism was a less desirable character trait that could skew your perception of reality. And somehow I still chose the dismal science as a field of study . . .

But hope for a more positive disposition can spring eternal, especially after a new commercial I saw on TV. The fact that I even saw this commercial is pretty impressive since I don’t watch many of them. I’m a firm believer that the best invention over the last decade is TiVo/DVR (or at least the best one of the late 90s). I’m all about efficiency and commercials do nothing to help my TV show throughput, hence DVR was an absolute must when we signed up for satellite service.

About the commercial . . . the Make-A-Wish foundation is currently running an ad that tells the story of 6 year old Michael who wished to be a superhero and the local teacher, Mr. Stewart Snodgrass, who volunteered to be his archenemy. After a televised plea from a local newscaster, a costumed “Beetle-Boy” springs into action and saves the fair citizens of Pittsburg from the evil antics of the Green Goblin. The capture climaxes with the GG getting a swift kick in the head. Touching and entertaining. They really know how to sell it (there I go again . . . sorry.)

Anyway . . . I was a little surprised by how much this story grabbed at my heartstrings. My eyes teared up as I wondered who I should call to volunteer to get kicked in the head to make a sick kid happy. I even went so far as to save the commercial so Nate could watch it when he got home. (OCD says immediately delete all watched shows from the DVR harddrive!) That should help you imagine just how powerful this little snippet of advertising genius really is. Like Drano for a cloudy pool of cynicism . . .

If you need positive improvement to your less-than-sunny disposition, or even if you don’t, click the link to see the commercial for yourself:



Colorblind or clueless?

I like to believe that my kids notice character and personality more than physical characteristics when they meet someone new. I've tried to teach them that Heavenly Father made everyone a little different and that's what makes each of us so special. I've read them all the Max Lucado books and I've bitten my tongue when they've used green crayons while coloring faces. I've tried to be casual and feign nonchalance when the inevitable tactless comment flies out of their mouths while in public. You know the ones I mean - the ones that are only slightly less uncomfortable than being hog-tied and roasted on a spit.
"Look mom! That lady is really fat!"
"Wow, his skin is black like nighttime"
"I wish I had no leg."

Yeah, that last one actually was Jack (see side bar under "Say What?) At what age does the tact and sensitivity filter kick in? And now he's done it again, which just makes me wonder . . .

Last Wednesday we arrived home from our mini vacation just in time for Jack and I to attend the last 15 minutes of his teacher "Meet & Greet" at school. The only other parent/child combo in the room was a Nigerian man with his son. The boys played blocks and cars while the grown ups discussed the pertinent details of kindergarten. At the end of their mini playdate the boys exchanged exploding knuckles and Jack said goodbye to "black-skinned man" (referring to the boy).

Now, on the mortification scale, this experience ranked pretty low. I knew Jack's nickname was truly observational and veiled no judgement or disdain. But still I cringed and hoped the boy and his father recognized Jack's simple honesty and the pure intentions it sprang from.

Jack was excited to see this boy at school and came home after the first day with grand descriptions of the fun they had together. The next day this boy didn't come to school. Jack was sorely disappointed, especially since his brother and sister had both been there. Brother and sister? I was pretty sure that this little boy didn't have siblings in kindergarten. Jack insisted that he did; after all, they had black skin too.

Once again, my teeth clenched involuntarily as the heat of instant mortification flared across the back of my neck. No rational assumption could have led him to a conclusion of relation. Maybe my first problem is assuming rationality when Jack has provided little evidence of it in the past.

But what to do about it? It's not like my kids have lived totally sheltered lives, void of interaction with people of different races, from all walks of life. Addy attended kindergarten in the Boston public school district and was one of only 2 white kids in her class. We lived in North Carolina - while not the deep south, it's the south none the less. But southern California? Until Jack's comments I hadn't noticed just how homogeneous our immediate area is. I guess if we're going to be here for a while, I better make an exerted effort to ensure my kids start growing up a little less clueless.


Past Due

A few weeks ago we got a letter in the mail from a debt collection agency indicating that we owed $38 for a past due account they acquired from Verizon. I was personally offended.

I pride myself in being ridiculously anal-retentive. Yes, we've moved many times, and as such, we've set-up and cancelled many a utility service. In doing so, I have paid strict attention to making sure we pay for services rendered and received. If fact, I've usually been the one on the phone to the utility company making sure they have our forwarding address so we will receive a final bill.

Interesting to note in the case of this particular "debt":

1. The debt was allegedly incurred in July 2000, while we were living in Towson, Maryland. At that time, however, our phone service was with Atlantic Bell. I have been made aware that Verizon did buy out Atlantic Bell in July 2000, however, our service had already been disconnected since we were in process of moving to Stevenson Ranch, CA.

2. I actually have our initial bill from setting up our Atlantic Bell account in June 1999 (I save EVERYTHING tax deductible!) The account number does not match that of the allegedly past due account. Unfortunately, I don't have the final bill, as it wasn't tax deductible and it was paid 8 years ago.

3. Our Atlantic Bell telephone service was prepaid, meaning for example, the bill you pay in January is for the service you will be provided with in February. Our monthly service fee was in the ballpark of $17. We had no long distance service, since my cell phone had free long distance included (yes, I'm that cheap) and could therefore not possibly owe for long distance phone calls.

4. The statute of limitations on written contract debts in California (where we live now) and Maryland (where we lived then) is 4 years. As such, any notification of a past due account should have been made long prior to July 2004.

As I stated earlier, I was and still am personally offended that we received a letter from a collection agency. Nate wrote a strongly worded letter demanding copies of any and all documentation regarding this alleged debt. I'll be seriously suprised if we ever get a response, as I'm sure this agency is a "scavenger debt collector" at best and fradulent scam artists at worst, hoping victims with poor memories will just pay the past-due amount as an easy way out of the situation. No such luck with me - these guys chose the wrong chic to try to scam.


Things I've Learned . . .

While living in California (Sept 06 - ??)
  • I’ve learned that too many sunny days in a row make me blue (and sunburned).
  • I've learned that the Santa Ana winds are a cruel joke perpetrated by mother nature.
  • I've learned that keeping cars from parking in front of my house on street sweeping day is almost impossible.
  • I've learned that phenomenal neighbors aren't just a figment of movie imagination.
While living in North Carolina (June 05 - July 06)
  • I learned that just because it’s tried and true, doesn’t mean it can’t be improved upon.
  • I learned that disclosing too much information about the future can make for too many questions.
  • I learned that it’s easier to just pay for a property survey before you build a fence.
  • I learned that brand new Super Wal-Marts are a pleasure to shop at.
  • I learned that it’s harder to remember how old you are as each year passes.
  • I learned that people’s preconceptions of you are usually based on their own insecurities.
  • I learned that lots of color on the walls makes me happy.
  • I learned that using wheat straw to protect your grass seed and help it to germinate will result in wheat growing in your lawn.
  • I learned that you have to prepare for a garden in the fall – spring is too late.
  • I learned that dead trees sometimes leaf out the next year.
  • I learned that red dirt won’t come out of white towels, no matter how many times you bleach them.
  • I learned that composting is too complicated to bother with.
  • I learned that the billing practices of doctors should be regulated similarly to mechanics.
  • I learned that southern BBQ is really just marinated grizzle and fat.
  • I learned that it’s easier to keep matte surfaces looking clean.
  • I learned that just because it’s more ornate, doesn’t mean it’s better quality.
  • I learned that the more detail you give your husband, the more likely he’ll do it right, but also, the more likely he’ll tune you out.
  • I learned that they’re serious when the tag reads “Use only non-chlorine bleach”.
  • I learned that working for GMAC means you can’t enter contests where the prize is a GM vehicle.
  • I learned that running your ceiling fan clockwise in the winter can help to save on your heating bills.
  • I learned that Diet Dr. Thunder tastes better than Diet Dr. Pepper – and it’s much cheaper too.
  • I learned that the postal service greatly benefits from the increase in internet commerce.
  • I learned that convenience is so much more important than looking cool. I drive a mini-van.
  • I learned that it’s easier to do without a rug in the kitchen, even if it would look better with one.
  • I learned that sometimes it’s harder to wait for any news than to deal with bad news.
  • I learned that gasoline will remove paint transfer from a car.
  • I learned that there is something strangely satisfying about cutting down a tree.
  • I learned that getting a second opinion after visiting a pediatric dentist is a good idea.
  • I learned that pediatricians don’t do a good job checking visual acuity.

While Living in Boston (August 03 - June 05)

  • I learned that high-speed internet is a need, not a want.
  • I learned that people who talk a lot don’t have very much to say.
  • I learned that perseverance can give me a headache, but usually pays off.
  • I learned that I really should have bought more Apple stock when it was under $10 a share.
  • I learned that I don’t miss snow in the wintertime.
  • I learned that while the internet makes shopping fun, but doesn’t provide instant gratification.

From my kids . . .

  • I learned that the characteristics that make my kids so hard to deal with right now are exactly what will help to make them successful adults - I hope.
  • I learned that pulling your arms inside your shirt creates a self-imposed straight-jacket, and prevents you from catching yourself as you fall off your barstool. (JACK)
  • I learned that there are a million ways to say no – “I don’t think so . . .” and “No way!” being just two.
  • I learned that to hear a little boy scream like a little girl, you just have to take him to the dentist or the barber. (JACK)
  • I learned that when I say, “just a minute”, they hear “just a second”, and I mean “when I get to it.”
  • I learned that just as April showers bring May flowers, Mayflowers bring Pilgrims. (ADDY)
  • I learned that 3 year boys need to be constantly reminded where it is appropriate to pee.
  • I learned that 3 is definitely harder, but definitely more fun than 2.
  • I learned that I have grown eyes on the back of my head.
  • I learned that you CAN forget what a good night’s sleep feels like.
  • I learned that it’s easier to crawl like a baby on carpet and like an ape on hardwood. (ELLIE)
  • I learned that messy playrooms are no fun to play in, and clean ones won’t stay that way for long.
  • I learned that 3 year old boys think everything is a jungle gym. So do 4 and 5 year old boys. I'm also thinking 6 year old boys will too.
  • I learned that teething babies will bite anything that is put into their mouths.
  • I learned that getting the extended warranty on your computer is a good idea.
  • I learned that kids like veggies if they are sautéed in garlic butter (but really, who doesn’t?)
  • I learned that a child-proof handle on the pantry is a necessity when you are storing chocolate milk mix.
  • I learned that sitting a baby on the check-out conveyor belt at Wal-Mart is not a good idea. (ELLIE)
  • I learned that it’s impossible for a 3 year old to learn a primary song, but they come pre-programmed knowing the cartoon theme songs – Bob the Builder being a good example. (JACK)
  • I learned that love taps from a 3 year old boy feel a lot like beatings, and hugs feel like being strangled. (JACK)
  • I learned that 6 year olds are scarred for life if you throw out a single piece of art work. (ADDY)
  • I learned that by the age of 6, kids already know that “it’s not fair.” (ADDY)
  • I learned that the Tooth Fairy takes Wednesdays off and hasn’t done a good job keeping up with inflation. Apparently, she also vacations in Fiji. (ADDY)
  • I learned that anything is more fun to play with if you can put it into your mouth.I’ve learned that there is such thing as a stupid question.
  • I learned that the answer to the question “why” can rarely be satiated in the mind of a 3 year old. (JACK)
  • I learned that although I want the kids to hear 90% of the things I say, they typically only listen to10%. Unfortunately, it’s usually the 10% I don’t want them to hear (or share at church, school, with the neighbors, etc).
  • I learned that really tired babies can fall asleep standing up. (ELLIE)

From my Mom . . .

  • I learned to “grow where I am planted”.
  • I learned that preparing for a colonoscopy is “really gross”.
  • Finally, I learned that asking someone what they want for their birthday (Christmas, Mother’s Day, etc.) is rarely a good idea.


The world famous San Diego Zoo

Yesterday marked the first day of our mini vacation to San Diego. I know, I know . . . we really went out of our way this time. But it was the biggest effort I could muster, considering the craziness of this long summer. And as far as the kids are concerned, you only need a hotel stay to turn an adventure from a day-trip into a vacation. Another upside - walking home is a feasible option for misbehaving children.

We started out late, deciding that sleeping in was of far higher importance than getting to our hotel before check-in. We stopped at Pavilions to stock up on Diet Dr. Pepper and deli sandwiches, then were off on our 70 mile road trip. After an hour or so Jack asked if we were there yet and happily I said yes, our long and arduous trek was finally over. We checked into our home away from home, then were off to the zoo.

The world famous San Diego Zoo was accommodatingly under crowded on this Labor Day afternoon. We had no wait (and the best seats) for the tour bus, the sky tram, and the bronze animals.

We had easy access to the world famous San Diego Zoo pandas and the stinky petting zoo.

Addy, Jack, and Ellie were eager participants at the Dr. Zoolittle show. Addy assisted with snake charming and Jack and Ellie ate beetle larvae. Yes, beetle larvae. Again with that peer pressure thing. Maybe I should invite random strangers over on nights I plan to serve lasagne.

Sketch spent the day being less than cooperative. I guess he's too used to the easy life at home - no sun, no stroller, no heat, boob on demand, etc. Things 1-3 found that the best way to calm him down was to chant his name, so we, and the rest of the world famous San Diego Zoo visitors were randomly subjected to a chorus of "Frank-lin, Frank-lin, Frank-lin, Frank-lin . . ."

We got to enjoy the last night of Zoo Nights, when the world famous San Diego Zoo stays open until 9pm. Sounds like a great idea, right?
It would be, except the zoo is not well equipped for visitors after dark. Most of the animal exhibits span hilly terrain with severely inadequate lighting. We spent sunset with the great apes thanks to a one-way uphill people mover.

Unfortunately the stroller-friendly way down the hill, the aviary, closed and locked at sunset. Administrators at the world famous San Diego Zoo should be happy I'm not a litigious person, as double-teaming a double stroller down 100+ steps after dark with 4 exhausted Things could have easily turned tragic.

We closed out the evening at a cirque style show, complete with hand balancing, duo static trapeze, bungee trapeze, flying silks, and circeaux. This show alone was worth the entrance admission to the park, or would have been, if we hadn't had passes. In addition to the acrobatics, the show included music and video which lauded the efforts of world famous San Diego Zoo keepers to promote and protect exotic and endangered species through education and conservationism. Which got me to thinking . . .

Why does the world famous San Diego Zoo reiterate over and over the importance of protecting habitat and natural resources, and investment in renewable energy sources and biodegradable products, such as utensils made from compostable potato starch . . .

and then send each of your kids home with a meal that came in this?

Regardless of the extra baggage, we left the world famous San Diego Zoo feeling more connected to the animal kingdom than when we walked in.
We were sweaty, smelly, and tired. Tired, not just physically, but also of being informed at every turn by tour guides, docents, food stand workers, and sky tram operators of just how famous this San Diego zoo really is.

Missing from photo: Ellie. She was in the bathroom trying to brush all remnants of beetle larvae out of her teeth.