Sunday, December 27, 2009

Our Year, on Facebook

Mom, Dad, Big Sister, and Little Sister are attending Auntie and Uncle's Wedding.

Big Sister joined the group Kids Who Love Barack Obama.
Little Sister likes this.

Mom became a fan of Aretha Franklin's Inauguration Hat.

Mom completed the quiz Which of the Seven Deadly Sins Are You? with the result Gluttony.

Dad is fishing on his lunch break.

Mom, Dad, Big Sister, and Little Sister are attending Road Trip to the Bay Area.

Mom is ignoring another much-needed home repair.

Little Sister became of fan of Peeing in Your Bed When You Don't Want to Get up in the Middle of the Night.

Mom is boosting the economy at Target.

Dad is learning long and short vowel sounds.

Dad became a fan of Sleeping on the Couch.
Dog likes this.

Mom posted something on Dad's Wall.

Dad sent Mom a My Heart Request using iHeart.

Little Sister is stalling at bedtime.

Big Sister is riding a two-wheeler.

Big Sister joined the group Orange Gators Tee Ball Team.
Mom, Dad, and Little Sister like this.

Big Sister and Little Sister are attending Cousin Snugglenest.
Dog likes this.

Mom is attending High School Sports Championship Game(s).

Big Sister became a fan of "Whatever."

Dad is working on the weekend.
Mom commented on Dad's status.

Mom is attending Class of 2009 Senior Prank.
Big Sister and Little Sister like this.

Mom is grooving to Lady Gaga at the Prom.
Dad commented on Mom's status.

Cat completed the quiz Which Muppet Character Are You? with the result Beaker.

Mom is thinking about her Grandma and Grandpa.

Mom, Dad, Big Sister, and Little Sister are attending Beer Can Races Summer 2009.

Big Sister is I love everything about the beach except the sand.

Little Sister became a fan of Dislike Button.

Mom is attending 20th High School Reunion.

Dad is attending 4th of July Parade.
Mom, Big Sister, and Little Sister like this.

Little Sister is jumping in the pool and swimming!

Mom and Dad are attending Neighborhood Happy Hour.

Mom is attending Indigo Girls Concert.
Mom likes her own activity.
Dad commented on Mom's activity.

Mom is if one more appliance breaks I am giving up and going Little House on the Prairie.

Dad is letting in the repairman.

Big Sister is mermaid birthday party!

Mom began her fourth year as a high school Vice Principal.

Big Sister joined the group First Graders at McKinley Elementary.

Little Sister poked Big Sister.

Big Sister wrote something on Little Sister's Wall.

Mom is dealing with injured and dead wildlife.

Big Sister became a fan of Taylor Swift.
Mom and Little Sister like this.

Mom and Dad became fans of the Village.

Little Sister changed her mind. Again.

Big Sister is drawing in her office.

Cat has a hairball.
Dog likes this.

Mom wants new carpet.

Big Sister and Little Sister are attending Strategically Timed Temper Tantrum.

Mom and Dad became fans of Time Out, Hasty Exit from Restaurant, and Withholding of Privileges.

Big Sister attempted to unfriend Mom.

Mom sent Big Sister a We're Related using I Will Always Be Your Mother.

Dad is pulling weeds in the school garden.

Mom is fighting with the sewing machine over Halloween costumes.

Mom and Dad are attending Budget Cuts.

Big Sister and Little Sister are new cousin!
Mom and Dad like this.

Mom, Dad, Big Sister, and Little Sister are attending Mammom and Bampa's 40th Anniversary Cruise.

Mom, Dad, Big Sister, and Little Sister are thankful.

Mom is looking for a Poodle Purse and Fairy Computer.

Mom is asking for carpet cleaning for Christmas.

Dad is taking some time off for the holidays.
Mom, Big Sister, Little Sister, Dog, and Cat like this.

Mom, Dad, Big Sister, Little Sister, Dog, and Cat are celebrating a healthy, happy 2009.
Everyone likes this.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Giving and Getting

A friend of mine recently mused on his blog about the growing popularity of buying/giving, noting that more and more retailers offer donations to charities and causes when you spend on yourself. He initiated a discussion on this trend of convenient altruism, and whether or not this was a sign of the demise of truly selfless giving.

I thought a lot about what constitutes true benevolence--the kind that entails sacrifice and doesn't automatically come with a big fat dose of self satisfaction. Does giving to make oneself feel good in some way diminish the giving?

This year, as we did last year, our family and extended families adopted a family in need for the holidays. Two of the children in our adopted clan were the same ages as my girls and the cousins, so our kids went shopping and chose presents for them that they would have wished for themselves. We included gift cards for the parents so they could be Santa for their children too.

We drove out to their East County trailer to deliver our gifts last weekend. The five year old daughter welcomed us into her humble home with warmth and excitement. Her parents were gracious and kind despite the mildly awkward occasion.

The little girl opened a few gifts and then disappeared into her bedroom. She emerged with a stuffed cat and offered it tenderly to our three year old. Her mother gently asked her if she really wanted to give away her favorite toy. She nodded with conviction, and before we left, she had given away two more of her treasures to my other daughter and her cousin.

During our visit I was conscious of this episode being to a certain extent about our need to give (we even had the gratification of observing the receipt of our gifts), as well as our desire to have our fortunate children be part of something altruistic. We attempt to model this kind of giving because we (selfishly?) want our children to be good, generous people. We attempt to fight the consumerism, materialism, wantism, grass-is-greenerism that surrounds us and even worms its way in from time to time.

Nevertheless, I tried to imagine my daughters giving away their most prized, treasured possessions to someone they had only just met and would not likely see again.

I'm still mulling that over.

In the meantime, our daughter named her stuffed animal after that kind kindergartner who showed us what the season is really all about.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Christmas Wonder

We've spent the last week or so hunting down the elusive requests on our daughters' lists: Fairy Computer (three-year-old) and Blue Sparkly Poodle Purse (first grader) proved the most challenging.

The Fairy Computer will be a Pink Princess Computer with some Fairy Decals, looking just like Santa's elves got busy with gum and glue in the North Pole.

Now go ahead and Google "Poodle Purse," and I promise you will find a plush handbag in the shape of a poodle. It is even available in blue. But that's not exactly what our first grader means, you see. The Poodle Purse is a little bag with a poodle inside whose head sticks out. You can find them at "like, a fair, Mom." Right. A fair. Santa will know what I mean, she reassured me.


But the poodle stars lined up nicely for us on a trip to the mall last Monday to visit Santa and eat Chinese Food in the Food Court. On our way back to the car we stopped in the toy store to have a peek. And what do you know, some purses of the poodle ilk were nestled on a shelf. They would have gone completely unnoticed by me had Daughter not squealed, "Those, Mama! Those are poodle purses!" These were actually Chihuahua Purses and Papillon Purses, but still. My daughter, it turns out, is not crazy nor conceiving never-before-seen creations, thankfully. That evening I spent a fair amount of time clicking on links to various versions of the Poodle Purse. Santa, it turns out, prefers the Bichon in 2009.

Some years are better than others in terms of gift for the kiddoes. This season will be a few smaller items versus The Big Reveal. And there is one little gift I am excited to wrap and put under the tree for our First Grader.

Not unlike many of her peers, our grade schooler likes her sandwich bread soft and without all those annoyingly healthy and crunchy seeds and nuts. She happens to have a friend at school who packs her sandwiches on that plushy, smushable-into-a-ball, completely non-nutritious Wonder Bread. Apparently there have been some lunchtime trades to confirm her love affair.

Does Wonder Bread even still exist? a friend mused. Yes it does. And my daughter begs me to buy it every time I head out for groceries. And then I come home with Whole Grain.

A few weeks ago Daughter went to play at another friend's house. She came home, triumphant, to report that her pal's mother let her choose "anything" for lunch. Our darling ordered up Tuna on Wonder Bread, and that mama went to the store and bought a loaf of that wondrous stuff.

Best part of the story? My daughter's friend is gluten free, unlike the Wonder Bread they had leftover from my kiddo's lunch date.

Our little Wonder will get her own loaf on Christmas morning. French toast, anyone?

Thursday, December 10, 2009


I was thinking today about this poem I wrote. It was inspired by a visit to Wasini Island when I lived in Kenya. On this small island with no roads and reachable only by small boat, I felt very far away.


If I ever see you again
I think it will be at the end of the world
Where tree limbs plunge inexplicably downward into
sand and saltwater
And you are rooted with the tide,
merging earth and water,
your arms reaching reaching
out to me and beyond
This lonely peninsula.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Checking It Twice

Dear Santa,

One of our teachers presented me with this challenge: Choose one item that is on your holiday wish list (or one item that is not on your list) and reflect on what this item's presence on (or absence from) your list reveals about where you are in your life right now.

I have an answer, but not a comfortable one.

I'm reminded of the time I sat in an important interview for a Rotary Club study abroad scholarship, and one of the questions asked was, "If you could be any animal, which would you be and why?" Inexplicably, "beaver" popped into my head.

Beaver? Really?

Like a character in a comic strip, I tried to push off that thought balloon, but it bobbed there stubbornly.

Beaver became my answer. And I got the scholarship.

Now here I am, trying to be careful what I wish for. Because what I really want this year, Santa, is a new baby.

On the Want/Need Continuum, this wish is as far on the Want end of the spectrum as possible. It's maybe even greedy. Not only do I not need a baby, there are plenty of reasons why I might expect you to put this desire in the "I Hear You, but...Try Again" category.

You know I am a lucky woman with two healthy children, a husband, and a home. Our daughters, six and three, are at pretty self-sufficient ages and with help from family and friends, we manage our busy two-working-parents household.

I come from a large brood and didn't think I would follow in my parents' footsteps and have five children. But I always imagined three. Two would be too few; four would be too many. I never pictured myself in the "2.1 kids" column.

But who am I kidding? Not you, Mr. Claus, who knows when our daughters are naughty and nice. Much of the time, two is more than enough for us. We've got man-on-man defense down, but we're still outwitted at times.

Nevertheless, after some years of overwhelm, we're in a good groove.

So it's hard to explain why I want to upset our tidy apple cart. I just want a baby. I do. I want to not want a baby, but, I don't.

It's not that I'm hoping for a boy, Santa. And I'm not dying to be pregnant again. I'm willing to explore a variety of Stork Options.

Truth is, I think I want a baby so it won't all be over. You know, childhood. Our house currently has no crib and no diapers and no highchair. Our youngest is careening toward kindergarten. Soon, it seems, I'll be the mother of older kids, cooing at and longing to hold the babies of my younger parent peers. I see it already: both daughters will be in high school together and then a few years later, both graduated and gone.

I can't help wanting one more toddler, one more learning-to-talker, one more footy-pajamaed snuggler. I want the soccer games and school shows and chaotic family dinners to span more years than the three between our two. I want another one at home to keep us young.

Ultimately, Santa, maybe that's what I'm really after: my youth. A sense that I am not marching too quickly through life's stages. Career? Check. Enough Time for Myself? Check. Family? I want more of that.

I know what you're thinking, Santa. If I get what I want, my stocking will be full of Sleepless Nights, Diaper Changes, Crying, Drooling, Spit-Up, and more Laundry and Whining.

I'll admit I have to wonder if we have room in our house for another inhabitant and enough money in the bank for daycare and college. Love in our hearts, though, we have to spare.

Santa, over the years I've come to expect your wisdom applied to my wishes. So, whether or not 2010 brings me a bundle of joy or a carton of contentment, I figure something good is coming my way.

Your Friend,



In the van on the way home from helping decorate my parents' tree:

"Mom, I think I believe in Santa Claus..."

Great. Here we go again. Our six-year-old Santa Skeptic, thinking too much.

"But I am just not sure Santa is actually the guy who delivers all the presents."

"Okay, so who do you think does?"

"Well, it could just be some regular person. Like, maybe Santa is just a character made up so no one knows who the real person is."

"But how could a regular person deliver ALL those presents? I mean, it has to be someone magical, don't you think?"

"It could be a lot of people, with helicopters or something."

"But Santa has been the same for hundreds of years...and he lives forever. Whoever delivers the presents would probably have to be like that, right?"

"Okay, so maybe Santa is just a character we all believe in and there's really someone else--like maybe even a girl--who doesn't want anyone to know who she is. And she lives forever."

"Hmmm. I think you're on to something here. And I guess we'll never really know who Santa is, huh?"

Silence. But I can practically hear the wheels turning in the seat behind me.

"I wonder what her name is."

"Well, since we don't know, maybe we could just call her 'Santa.'"

Friday, December 4, 2009

Bark or Bite

By now, New Moon fever has dulled to a faint howl, but the books and movie are still coming up in conversation. I saw the second film in the Twilight series two weeks ago and at least a couple of hours before most of my students due to free tickets to a special screening with friends. The movie was fabulous entertainment, as was the audience, cheering whenever Edward the Vampire or Jacob the Werewolf appeared on screen, shirtless.

So, there was a lot of cheering. And I felt slightly dirty the next day when I discovered that Taylor Lautner, the actor who plays Jacob, is only 17 years old. I could write about the sexism double standards at play here, and I thought about it...

But the real debate is Team Edward versus Team Jacob.

Now, before you log off your computer in disgust because you, like a friend or two on Facebook who have joined the group, "Team Edward or Team Jacob? How about Team Shut the F*** Up?" let me clarify that I am not entertaining the notion of which hottie is hotter. The point to ponder is what a friend's wife called "The Age-Old Conflict in a Woman's Soul."

Early in New Moon, elusive, often emotionally inaccessible Edward leaves heroine Bella, with the parting words, "You're no good for me." What he means literally is: "You're a juicy steak I want to bite into all the time." But that's just vampire speak for "It's not you; it's me," so we can relate as Bella pines for him while the seasons change. Seasons in Forks, Washington, by the way, are marked by either Rain or Snow (symbols, respectively, of tears and frozen hearts?).

I spent the first portion of the book annoyed with Edward and impatient with mopey Bella, but just before we are ready to give up on this sob saga (set to an appropriately emo soundtrack in the film), Bella does the expected: dusts herself off and finds herself a worthy distraction in the form of Jacob. Jacob is a brooding long-haired boy/man living outside town on the reservation. Bella and Jacob become close friends--but just friends. And not for lack of trying on Jacob's part.

I suppose we're supposed to feel the sexual tension between Bella and Jacob, but she pretty consistently dogs him (mastering the last-minute head-turn) to avoid being unfaithful to Edward, who has bailed on her. Nevertheless, this is meant to be a conflict, and Jacob is her bird in the hand. Except, we discover, he is actually a wolf in the woods. Which totally fits, since he plays the puppydog so perfectly. The faithful pooch. Loyal to his pack, to Bella, etc.

So now Edward and Jacob have something besides Bella in common: they're both monsters (albeit, monsters locked in an archetypal rivalry between their "species"). But Jacob is bound to lose the battle for Bella's heart, and he knows it: "I’m so sorry that I can’t be the right kind of monster for you, Bella. I guess I’m just not as great as a bloodsucker, am I?"

Jacob can be petulant and whiny, but he's always there.

Though Bella makes it abundantly clear whom she chooses, the 'Edward or Jacob' conundrum persists nevertheless as allegory: Who's your Jacob? Where's your Edward? Did you marry your Wolf or your Vampire?

We can imagine that Edward symbolizes passion, intrigue, the tortured poet, one's "soulmate." Dangerous love. The kind that might come back to bite you.

Jacob, on the other hand, represents safety. Dependability. He's an adoring friend and he'll stick around, put up with your moods. More the shaggy dog than wild hound.

If I ventured a guess, I'd bet that most of my friends committed to their wolves. Maybe after being once bitten. Or even twice.

But who doesn't want her Wolf and Vampire too? Is it possible? When a friend of mine pressed his wife to reveal if he was her Vamp or Dawg, she cleverly convinced him that her Vampire had become her Wolf. Graceful move, Sister.

The Twilight series, for the record, doesn't help us ground our expectations. After all, for Edward and Bella to work, she needs to join him in the Vampire World, so they'll both be young and immortal, forever. Frozen in time. Implicit is that their youthful passion for each other sustains.

In reality, we're graying and so are our mates. And retaining our youth is not as simple as saying to one's lover, "Bite me."

The danger is having your Wolf in the den and imagining one's Vampire is still out there, at large. The one that got away.

Maybe that's the allure of Twilight for the demographic say, above the age of 18. Edward Cullen is a safe fantasy (and he's not a minor in real life, either).

Bur offscreen, and at home, the challenge is not letting our long-term relationships suck the lifeblood out of us.

So here's to keeping it hot in the doghouse.