I'm losing my mind . . .

. . . or at least forgetting it. In the last few weeks I've forgotten: Ellie - at the kindergarten playground.


You think my lesson would've been learned after the first unfortunate incident. But she's so quiet and self-entertaining - it's easy to forget that she's playing after Jack's lined up and filed into class with his teacher. The first time I was walking back to the car with Sketch under my arm (it may look odd, but I think he's really quite comfortable that way.) I saw a woman pushing a baby in a stroller while holding her toddler's hand. What goes through my mind? Ahh . . . I'm so glad I have only one.



I turn around and race back to the playground only to find Ellie happily climbing up to the slide. She didn't even notice the school yard had emptied. No harm, no foul - right? So how could I do it again? Shouldn't my motherly instincts have kicked in a little stronger after I almost accidentally abandoned my child? I guess sleep deprivation continues to work its malevolent magic and rear its ugly head.

The second time I wasn't even rescued by the site of another woman with her children. No, instead I needed to be asked by a friend where my sweet little Ellie was . . . as I walked farther and father away from the school. Obviously not with me. I'm not taking chances anymore.

Now I just drop Jack at the curb and hope he finds his way to class. He's six - more than old enough to fend for himself once on school grounds. I'm keeping Ellie buckled in her carseat, safely away from the black hole that the kindergarten playground creates in my head. Jack's Jog-a-Thon - Every year the school holds one really big fundraiser - a Jog-a-Thon. The kids ask for donations from friends and family then spend a day running laps around the school field. It's a huge deal, both to the kids, and to the PTA. This events costs very little to put on (unless you consider man hours) and brings in around 40K, sufficient enough to make wrapping paper and cookie dough sales unnecessary. Jack was so excited, spending the weeks prior running laps around the field at Addy's soccer practices. The kids in his class were going to have special green t-shirts to wear and a brand new water bottle with their own name on it. There would be a DJ and lots of cheering parents - all kinds of hype and commotion most appreciated by sweaty little kids. The morning of Addy was wearing jeans and sneakers. I told her to change - she needed to wear shorts and her running shoes. Didn't she remember it was the Jog-a-Thon? She left for school and I went back to bed. Jack was having breakfast and playing with Ellie. I knew I'd be up in time for him to have lunch and pack his bag for school. And I was.

No big deal - until we headed out to the car at 11am. Then it hit me like a ton of feathers. Jack was supposed to be to school early, really early - the Ks were running at 9am.

Jack had missed the Jog-a-Thon! I about fell on the ground in disbelief. I called him back from the car and told him the horrible news.

He cried.

And cried.

And I didn't blame him, or even tell him to stop. I wanted to curl up and pretend the day hadn't started yet. Do-over! I need a do-over here!!! Although I thought about skipping the rest of the school day (his class was getting out at 11:40am) I decided I needed to suck it up and take him. Better face the humiliation head on than have to write a little white-lie excuse note the next day. Jack got his personalized water bottle and his pizza at snack time. The school got their $41 per diem for his attendance. And the PTA still got a very generous donation. Addy - has entered the PTA Reflections art contest three times now. She loves to draw, and create, and craft, and build, and photograph, and . . . you get the picture. Some of her teachers have required entry as an assignment, and although this year was optional, Addy opted to participate. Procrastination is still second nature for Addy, and while she planned for two entries - one in photography and one in visual arts - the night-before rolled around and the only progress made was about a dozen 4x8 photo prints. For simplification (and to ensure a reasonable bedtime) I recommended she make a photographic collage for the visual arts entry.

Smashing idea! Snip, snip here . . . glue, glue there . . voila! It's done. Now go to bed.

This past Monday evening was the school Reflections awards ceremony. Each participant receives a ribbon and 1st-3rd place designations are made in each category. While we've never gone before, I felt like I should be supportive and attend with Addy. But to hike all the way to the school, on family night, when Nate might not even be home, in the middle of dinner time, when the kids all need to go to bed . . . So I forgot.

It's ok - so did Addy. I didn't even feel bad. At least not until the next morning, when I got a call from the Reflections coordinator. Addy won 1st place in the visual arts category.

And we weren't there.

And she didn't get her due recognition.

Or even congratulations . . . Horrible, horrible mother. Do you think I qualify for the top of the brain transplant list since mine is obviously damaged, possibly beyond repair?


Hardly a Christmas song

Things 1 & 2 taught Ellie a new song. There's just something about a sweet 3 year old, wearing plastic heels and a Cinderella dress, softly singing of death and body disposal that is so disturbing (and very entertaining) . . .

FYI - Addy's words are a little different: *substitute "world" for "earth", **substitute "potty" for "toilet". I chose, however, to use Ellie's personal interpretation instead - strangely enough, it's funnier.

Joy to the earth*, Barney's dead
We chopped of his head
Don't worry 'bout the body
We flushed it down the toilet**
And round and round it goes
And round and round it goes
Joy, joy to the earth*
(sung to the tune of Joy to the World)


Fruit Basket

Toward the end of high school I was a sandwich artist at Subway, an experience that brought about an interesting observation.

People have mixed reactions to vegetables. Some people will take 'em all, some people will leave 'em all. Some people request or reject because of flavor or texture, or even color. Some people pick and choose based upon their mood or the particular meat they are dressing. This cavalier attitude holds true for most veggies, but rarely, if ever for these:

Yes, I know the tomato is actually a fruit - but did you know, more specifically, it's a berry? All the confusion is due to a 1893 ruling by the Supreme Court (yes, the highest court in the land had nothing better to do than to rule on the classification of this specific organic material) that considers tomatoes to be vegetables when interpreting the Tariff Act of March 3, 1883. Again, it's all about the taxes.

On many occasions I received violent objections to the suggestion of tomatoes on a customer's sandwich. Contrarily, I garnered many an eager request for extra tomatoes piled high. Tomatoes seemed to be the veggie people felt strongest about - you love 'em or you hate 'em - there is rarely an in-between.

Addy is one of those people who HATE tomatoes. Logically I understand, since I can't put a bean of any kind (except green beans) in my mouth without gagging. (I also can't stomach split-pea soup or liver - both products of a traumatic childhood - thanks, Mom.) But emotionally I'm confused. I LOVE tomatoes. I love them fresh, canned, sauteed, stewed, baked, fried . . . I love them in salads, sauces, casseroles, stews, on pizza and sandwiches . . . I love them red, green, purple, yellow, orange, striped . . . best of all is ripe out of the garden, sun-warmed and juicy. But Addy won't have them any way.

Since a very, very young age Addy has spit tomatoes out whenever one has accidentally (or otherwise) entered her mouth. She has screamed and yelled and thrown many a tantrum when required to eat anything containing a recognizable tomato product (ketchup doesn't count - something about the sugar content.) I have tried over and over again to coax even a bare toleration for tomatoes out of her with little success. I've conceded and now allow Addy considerable lenience when refusing to eat tomatoes.

Perhaps the most disappointing casualties of our tomato wars have been Jack and Ellie. They aren't the most adventurous eaters but are typically willing to try something new, especially when bribed with dessert. Unfortunately tomatoes are one line they let Addy's experiences draw for them. Anything that resembles a tomato brings automatic whines and complaints. Even phonetic confusion warrants argument, e.g., "No Ellie, it's a potato, not a tomato!"

Last night I declared a mini-war on this situation. Each Thing was going to try a less-than-loved fresh veggie, even if their preconceived notions encouraged objection. Addy was given a red pepper.

She dipped it in ranch dressing, grimaced and took a tentative nibble. The verdict? Apparently ranch dressing makes red pepper taste like a carrot.

Ellie was given a spear of cucumber.

Yes, it also is actually a fruit.

Now, while cucumber is a perennial favorite of Addison's, her influence has historically had little hold over Ellie in this matter. For some strange reason, however, Ellie was in finer form than usual and ate the cuke with no complaint. The verdict? Yummy!

Another one of those pesky fruit masquerading as a veggie.

Jack's turn. He was required to eat a piece of avocado.

Jack was disgusted by the site of avocado on his plate. In frustration I told him to eat it already! After all, it tastes like butter. And Jack loves butter.

Jack's response? "Can I put butter on it?" After a resounding "NO", Jack flared his nostrils, gingerly took the avocado with his teeth, while carefully avoiding getting any on his lips, and gagged it down. The verdict? Humph . . . it does tastes like butter.

Here's another berry for you.

I figured the dinner experiment was successful enough and so out came the big gun - a juicy ripe tomato. I was determined to redeem my most beloved pseudo-veggie in the eyes of my Things. The responses?

  • Addy plugged her nose and swallowed without complaint. I'm so proud. She really is growing up.
  • Jack whined for a second, took the plunge, and declared, "I am NEVER eating one of those again . . . until I want to."
  • Ellie, again with no objection (she must have been really tired), chewed, savored, and swallowed. "It tastes like ketchup." I'm a little concerned about her palate. Maybe she's got a sinus infection?

Moral of the story? I guess I've just got to eat and let eat. As long as no one tries to force any variation of bean on me I'll continue to turn a blind eye to Addy's tomato issues. As for Things 2-4? They've got a few more years of convincing ahead if they want the same consideration.


Pumpkin Carvin'

I love Henry's Farmers Market (really, it's a grocery store chain). 2 for 1 pumpkins available 2 weeks before Halloween makes for a fabulous family night. Nate picked them up on his way home from work Friday and kept them in his car until the grand reveal on Saturday afternoon. There's nothing like pumpkins on the coffee table to encourge good behavior and incite chore completion.

Saturday's child labor went well into the late afternoon (blame it on yard work and garden prep) and after dinner and baths there was only time for jack-o-lantern face drawing. The actual cutting, scooping, and carving waited until Sunday afternoon.

More scooping and some carving.

Oops, Skech's jack-o-lantern had a little spit-up.

Freshly bathed children make me smile too.

Spooky faces - although not exactly nightmare inducing.


I've voted . . .

. . . but I guess I'm not done campaigning (or would that be propositioning?)

Right now this really only applies to California voters, but as the saying goes, "As goes California, so goes the nation." So pay attention and start talking. What happens this November 4th has the potential to change the face of this country forever.

Halloween came early

We're skipping Halloween this year and going camping instead. The kids are thrilled with the idea of a camping trip, but less than pleased that we'll miss trick-or-treating. As a compromise, I bribed them with tickets to Mickey's Trick-or-Treat Party at California Adventure. Courtney and her kids flew in the day of, so we spent the afternoon putting costumes together. I declared, "NO NEW COSTUMES!" and so we got creative with the Halloween and dress-up boxes.

Addy wore my bat costume from Halloween 2003. Anyone who knows the story of that costume need not share it with anyone else.
Mikey wore Addy's ninja costume from last year.
Minami wore Addy's corpse bride costume from 2006 sans wig and veil.
Jack wore his own skeleton costume from 2005. Strangely enough, it still fits.
Ellie wore her Cinderella dress-up, along with witch accessories from the Halloween box. I convinced her that even princesses need Halloween costumes.
Franklin wore our standard "first Halloween" costume - a jack-o-lantern.
Courtney loved my spider witch hat enough that she bought all the parts to make one for herself.

Any guesses as to Nate's costume?*

This candy corn was just the beginning of what proved to be an avalanche of sugar. Maybe next year I'll forgo buying candy to hand out and instead just re-gift all the Disney candy we receive (after removing a hearty chocolate tax, of course.)

The kiddie rides make Jack happy, Nate growl, . . .

. . . and Ellie so very, very sad. Just 2" can make all the difference at Disneyland.

*Nate was pleased with his low-involvement costume this year - an aircraft carrier.

Addy the economist?

Gas prices in our part of California peaked at $4.59/ga the weekend Sketch was born (mid June). Since then my pocketbook, like much of the country's, has enjoyed the slow but steady reduction in gas money hemorrhage.

A few weeks ago I was driving with Addy and the following short conversation ensued:

ME: Wow, gas prices have dropped about a penny a day since Sketch was born.

ADDY: That's a bad thing.

ME: Why? (I don't necessarily disagree with her, but I wanted to know her reasoning.)

ADDY: Because then people will buy more.

It seems that already Addy understands more about supply and demand than many elected officials. I couldn't be more proud . . .

Damage and devastation

Fall means Primary Presentation time, and for a new presidency that means lots of meetings. Because I'm the only member of the presidency with a baby, everyone has agreed to come to my house for our meetings. Ellie doesn't love when my time and attention are pulled away from her, so I've tried to plan ahead, ready with special toys, movies, and snacks to keep her busy and out of our hair while we plan and prepare.

Last week was a short meeting to finalize our program and to start planning for the holiday season. One of the other presidency members brought her kindergartner and his friend over to play while we met - he was out of school early because of a field trip. Ellie was so excited to have friends to play with, and I was glad to have a reprieve from her intermittent requests.

Alas, playtime turned violent, as I discovered after everyone had gone and cleanup was underway. This was only a portion of the carnage:

Addy was devastated, appropriately so, since all the dolls belonged to her. She had a melt-down, complete with wailing and gnashing of teeth. Her reaction was excessive, considering she rarely plays with dolls anymore. The next morning I woke and found further, but more understated venting:

She's learning to control her emotions a little better, but now we need to work on spelling.


Election year saturation

I'm so done.

I didn't bother to watch the last Presidential debate last night (not that I watched any of the others). I hang up on any automated telephone call/message that promotes a candidate or ballot proposition (not that I listened to them before). I walk by political volunteers camped outside the grocery store (not that I'm planning on registering to vote as a Democrat). I don't read the signs, I throw away the fliers, I ignore the commercials . . . and I don't feel guilty at all.

Why? Well, because:
One thing California does right is the availability of permanent "vote-by-mail" status. It's like an absentee ballot, but I don't have to request one for every election. I filled my ballot out, dropped it in the mail - and now I get to pretend that all this hullabaloo is done and over with. At least until next time . . .


Day 5

Nate and I cleaned out the garage. We put the Christmas tree away. Yes, you read correctly - we put it away. It's been set up in the garage for the last 9 months and I finally gave up on trying to work around it. Now I've got more wiggle room and a whole lotta space to store all the extra sanity I discovered today!

From this . . .
. . . to this!

And from this (artist's rendering) . . .
. . . to this (ooh, I wish)


Day 4

October 9, 2008

Courtney, the Things, and I went out to enjoy a day off school. We attempted to fly the giant helium balloon at the Great Park in Irvine. Just our luck - it was grounded due to a nearby water main break. Not exactly sure what a water main has to do with a balloon . . . seems to me that water sticks pretty close to the ground. Really it was more a lesson in the benefits of calling ahead. Waste of time, especially since the whining quotient rose as a result.

This is what we were supposed to be doing.
Instead, this is what we got to do.

And this is what we got to deal with.

We tried to salvage the outing with a Target pit stop at the Irvine Spectrum, then a romp in the nearby spray ground. Target is a luxury Hawaii residents don't yet get to indulge in. We planned a short store walk through, but with 6 Things in tow can you ever keep it quick?

And then there was the spray ground. Or more like the lack of one. It was out of service because a house had been built over the top of it. Seriously - a house. At an outdoor mall. What the heck? How do you explain to kids that we can't play in the water because a house is in the way? By then the whine meter had broken due to overstress. Back to the car with the bunch of us.

At least I got my sanity saver out of the way - on the way home I picked Sketch's portraits up at JC Penney. So very exciting. But at least I got to leave the Things in the car. And the pickup wasn't nearly as painful as the sitting - only 3 minutes instead of 3 hours.

Thank-You notes

Day 3 - October 8, 2008

That's all I got done today. I missed the PTA meeting due to a sleeping baby (and the heat - seriously, people shouldn't be expected to go out in that.) Somedays my sanity is seriously at risk. And did you notice the post date? My internet wasn't even cooperating.


Sanity Saver - Day 2

October 7, 2008 - I super-glued a glass shade for my chandelier. My lovely new chandelier came with 5 intact shades and 1 broken shade. Of course I called the company and requested them to send a replacement and they said they would - 2 months ago. It's never come and I'm tired of looking at a bare bulb. Good thing I saved the busted shade.
Yes, this is my chandelier. No, this is not my dining room.


The path to insanity

When Addy was born I had a hard time adjusting to the daily ins and outs of staying home with a Thing. I felt like I did the same things over and over and over and over - laundry, cooking, cleaning, sleeping, changing diapers, feeding, bathing, shopping . . . nothing ever stayed done. Isn't that the definition of insanity - doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result? I was quickly headed down a path that would land me in the loony-bin.

Then the newly minted Nana gave me a valuable piece of advice. To keep the claws of insanity at bay do at least one thing every day that STAYS done. That one doesn't have to be big. It doesn't have to be significant. It just has to require no repetition - at least not for a month or two.

So what's your daily sanity saver? You show me yours and I'll show you mine (for a week or so - more than that and any glassy-rose conceptions you have about glamorous adventure and exciting thrill present in my life, false as they may be, could be shattered forever) . . . assuming my free wireless cooperates and lets me post daily (yes, it's another story worth a post of its own.)

Monday, October 6, 2008 (Day 1) - I took the glass microwave turntable to my next door neighbor - she's borrowing our extra microwave while her kitchen is being remodeled.

Pureed grass clippings? Anyone? Anyone?

Aunty Courtney and cousins Mikey and Minami are visiting for a week. As is always fun, Courtney has brought a notebook full of recipes and has grand plans to keep us well fed.
Already we've had tortellini with broccoli (oniony and yummy), spaghetti with pine nuts (garlicky and yummy), green beans with lemon juice and almonds (tart and yummy), and green smoothies (umm . . . a little yucky).

I'm all about being healthy, but taste plays a HUGE factor in that endeavor. I like flavor and spice and variety - all the good stuff that makes food more than just nutrition. Food is supposed to make you feel good. It's supposed to be fun and satisfying, something more than matter measured in units of calories and ingested simply for energy. We're NOT automobiles, and food is NOT just fuel.

That being said, Courtney decided we needed to try her "Green Smoothie" (thank you, Laie III Ward Enrichment Meeting.) She claimed it gives her the most amazing energy boost and insisted it really is tasty. Mikey refers to it as the "Shrek drink". That should've been warning enough. Anyway . . . here's the recipe:
1 apple
1 orange
1 banana
1 stalk celery
1-2 cups water
fresh spinach

Throw it all into a blender, mix until frothy, serve immediately.

So I tried it. The taste was very similar to that bitter scent of fresh cut grass, especially if you have a mulching mower and happened to have scattered fresh fruit on your lawn prior to mowing. The green froth was less than appetizing and felt quite slimy and unattractive against my upper lip - I definitely don't need mustache fertilizer since mine grows just fine on its own. Nate called me Jack to guilt me into finishing the special smoothie, although I did require a straw to do so.

I don't think I'll be making this liquefied delight anytime soon - I politely declined Courtney's offer to make more for breakfast. Instead, I think I'll save the green superfood for when a feeding tube is my only option. Until then, I'll eat the bulk of my veggies solid.


Tender tootsies

Not so early this morning I was moving Sketch back to his own bed and tripped on something. I'm not sure what it was - my jammie pants, the bed skirt, the boppy, a random assortment of dirty laundry - whatever it was, I lost my balance and pitched forward toward the ground. I reached out to grab anything I could to stop my fall and keep Sketch in my arm. The closest thing was the pack-n-play (where Sketch has been sleeping in our room) and frankly, I'm surprised it held up to the force of my impact. In the process I managed to curl two toes under under my foot and jam them pretty hard into the floor. Somehow Sketch slept through the whole 0.2 second long experience and the slew of mild obscenities that unwittingly slipped out under my breath. I put him in his bed and climbed back into my own. Sleep was only slightly slow to come and I fell back into unconsciousness until Sketch again waked, demanding immediate nourishment.

I spent the rest of the day hobbling around like a gimpy old man, aggressively protecting my foot from the wild children that rule this roost. For the most part I fared well, although Thing 3 caught me distracted and stepped squarely on those two tender tootsies. Why is it they always think it's funny when you scream in pain?

Evening eventually rolled around and Nate wrapped my toes with adhesive tape - again with that "not enough time in the day" problem. Apparently medical technology hasn't improved much since 1992 - the year I broke my big toe on Kuuipo's shin. The recommended course of treatment is still tape and time. Although I doubt the toes are broken they still hurt something fierce (I'm convinced that under my fabulous red nail polish are nasty purple toenails - not that I'll ruin my pedicure to check.) Really, with all the miraculous advances in medical science you'd think someone would come up with a way to speed the healing process. By the time my current limp is gone I'll have a new one from the ankle damage due to overcompensation. It's a vicious, vicious cycle.

The moral of the story? Getting out of bed can be seriously hazardous to your health.


2 years later

and we're still in the same place. Same state, same city, same job, same ward, same house. This is a major milestone for us, considering that prior to Mission Viejo, CA, the longest we've lived in any one place since we've been married is 23 months. That was at our second address while we were finishing college (our first place was in Provo). Since then we've lived in:
Towson, MD - 13 months
Stevenson Ranch, CA - 11 months
Valencia, CA - 3 months
Johnstown, PA - 7 months (1 house, 1 extended stay)
Mission, TX - 11 months (1 house, 1 extended stay)
Boston, MA (2 apartments) - 22 months
Winston-Salem, NC - 3 months (Nate only)
Advance, NC - 13 months
Lake Forest, CA - 3 months (Nate only - extended stay)

not to mention the multitude of mini move-ins with Nate's family in Orem, UT when relocation timing created complications (THANK YOU!!).

Yes, I've been asked if we are fugitives from the law or in the WITSEC program (Mary McCormack is so sassy on "In Plain Sight"). No on both accounts. Nate and I have just looked at each move as an adventure, an opportunity to expand our horizons - with some locations definitely more palatable than others.

Now I feel like that's all come to a screeching halt. Moving gets in your blood and I'm a little unsettled that I'm not currently purging crap to lighten the load for our next relo. In fact, I can't even foresee our next move. I'm not sure I like the idea of putting down roots. Really, I'm not a tree. And no, I'm not like a bird, but I'm not convinced that southern California is as good as it gets. What if there's a better place out there, one that is yet to be discovered? And what if we never get that chance to discover it? Seriously, I'm starting to lose sleep over it.

Sweet Rewards

Since you had to read about the adventure at JC Penney Portrait Studio I figure it's only fair that you get to reap the reward. Here is (are?) the fruit of my labors . . . interpret that however you wish.

Franklin Thomas Mangum, 3 months old