Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Please, More Happy Cows

We've been paying the extra cash to buy organic milk for about ten years. It was tough in the lean economic times of graduate school but I still figured it was worth it because organic cows are happy cows, right? Well it turns out not so much. Now that big companies are hopping on the organic bandwagon, organic doesn't mean as much as it used to. Some organic milk actually comes from cows kept on feedlots. I want my organic cows to be happy cows out eating in the pasture in areas where grazing makes ecological sense. Now the Department of Agriculture is trying to help out us cow lovers by issuing a new proposed rule that will ensure that organic milk cows spend at least 30% of their diet eating grass on the pasture. I say bring on the happy cows!!

What the Heck is a Ponsi Scheme and How Did It Eat 35 billion dollars?

Does anyone else wonder where the 35 billion dollars lost in the Bernard Madoff scandal go? How can you lose 35 billion dollars? That whole mess has majorly messed up the philanthropy world and the sums of money lost by non-profits and individuals is staggering. I know you have to be pretty rich to begin with to be able to lose 30 million dollars but still, can you imagine waking up one morning to have someone tell you that your 30 million is gone???

A Christmas Miracle

I hate to jinx things by even mentioning it but we have had not one, not two, but three nights of no night time interruptions from the little people. Josie has been sleeping like a champ and some combination of threats, incentives, and a slightly earlier bedtime has also got Lucy back to sleeping through the night. My wish for the new year is that this trend continues. I need all the sleep I can get.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

All I Want For Christmas is A Dolphin, Two Whales, and an Octopus

We went to the mall this weekend and had our photo taken with Santa Claus. It was a bit of a disaster because I got grumpy following Josie around the mall for 30 minutes while they developed the prints and got everything together and then Mitch was peeved because the picture files that they gave us were pretty low resolution. Santa was very nice though and he had a good time talking to Mitch and Lucy (Josie and I were in and out in a matter of seconds).

The best part was when Santa asked Lucy what she wanted for Christmas and she said,
"A dolphin, some whales, an octopus..." Later when she was telling her friends about seeing Santa Claus (we went to a bowling birthday party in the afternoon) she said, "And I told Santa that I wanted a lot of things from the ocean for christmas."

So May your Christmas and New Year be filled with the joy of dolphins, the songs of whales, and the flexibility of octopii.

Jonathan Richman Still Rocks

Mitch and I got to go see Jonathan Richman on Friday night thanks to the babysitting prowess of our friend's Seth and Elise. It was a great concert. I felt like the universe gave me a small gift when Jonathan opened with some song about suffering that I had never heard before that had a chorus about how you can't avoid suffering and you can't refuse defeat because then prozac wins and you become a really annoying falsely happy person. It was a message that found fertile ground in my current mood so I was happy to have the universe (through Jonathan) affirm that it is o.k. to be bummed out sometimes and that you should embrace your sadness sometimes.

Jonathan is still a very quirky guy who spins his guitar around and does funny little dances. It was a very enjoyable show with a small but enthusiastic crowd. Jonathan played some songs I had never heard of but were fun to listen to as well as some classics like Lesbian Bar.

It was great to get out and hear some live music since we hardly ever get to do that any more. Thanks Jonathan, thanks Seth and Elise.

Hmmm - Chalk one up for duplicity

So I've been looking into new things to do work-wise recently. Not radically different from what I currently do but maybe a step up on the decision-making chain or a series of new challenges, or maybe a change of location. I like my current job but I would like to do something different, learn new things, you know. Anyway, I've applied for a couple of things recently. It's been challenging because I'm not sure exactly what I want to do next and Mitch and I aren't sure if we want to leave Ventura (well Mitch for sure likes it here A LOT).

Recently I had an opportunity to take the high ground in a job situation. To be completely honest and put all my cards on the table. And boy did it ever bite me in the rear. I don't want to go into any specifics because it is boring and I don't want to tell the universe about my work life. Suffice it to say that the outcome was a disappointment to me and I will have to reconsider the taking the high road excessive honesty option in the future...

Thursday, December 4, 2008

catching up

Turkey Day 2008. Lucy looks disgruntled but really she had a good time. Check out Rob's stache. should it stay or should it go?

A rare rainy day in Ventura.

Josie wants to know when the horse races start.

I haven't written in a while. I've been a bit caught up in my own work-related angst combined with sleep deprivation due to J.B. and just haven't had the energy for writing much. Actually I haven't had the energy for much except sleeping. Here are a few quick thoughts before I go to bed:

1. could george bush be more of an a-hole? i can't believe he is doing nothing to deal with the economic crisis but somehow still has time have the EPA pass rules allowing strip mining ("mountain top mining") to directly dump millions of tons of slag into creeks. nice work george.

2. had a nice thanksgiving with friends. did make me feel a bit bummed to be doing child maintenance instead of having adult conversations for a lot of the time. however, the girls were very cute and did have a great time eating sand and running full speed into the waves.

3. my father in law pointed out an excellent contradiction in my personality / personal beliefs. how can i totally hate being told what to do (not a big fan of any rules applied to me personally) but still be a fan of big government? what can i say, one of the joys of being human is the ability to strongly hold contradictory beliefs at the same time.

4. hoping to see jonathan richmond tomorrow night. if we get to go, i'll let you know how it is.

5. discussing whether to live in sunny southern california forever or to move somewhere (anywhere) possibly back to the rainy pacific northwest, is providing extra doses of stress and confusion into the old marriage...

6. looking forward to making some christmas gifts this year. will we be able to find the time when all crafts are not eaten or destroyed by our children prior to completion?

7. trying to catch up with a few friends from childhood, kristina coker, anna hosick, and andromeda dunker. hoping to connect via the internet superhighway - stina, anna, andromeda - are you out there?

8. much happiness, lucy went to the dentist for the first time. no cavities. i am so relieved. i brush her teeth so if she has cavities it is my fault. she does, of course, have a massive overbite. the dentist blames the pacifier, but have you seen my teeth recently?

9. we're trying for another round of crying it out with josie. she does have some serious stamina though. i can't believe it has basically been 14 months since we have had a solid night's sleep... it wears a person down. how many hours do you think she will stay awake and cry? i predict three max...

Monday, November 10, 2008

President-elect Obama

I've been trying to wait a respectful amount of time before waxing rhapsodic about Obama's victory in my blog. After all, I heard on NPR the other day that gloating is not very civil. I guess it's not really time to gloat anyway considering that the country has some serious problems what with the economy in the toilet, two wars, and all of that kind of thing. It won't be an easy road for Obama. I also realized the other day that the only way that Obama won is because at least some people who typically vote Republican voted for Obama this time. I whole heartedly commend their choice.

I have a hard time picturing an election where I would choose a Republican over the Democratic candidate. I am a proponent of BIG government. I am the big government, being a government employee myself. And I absolutely believe in the need for laws to get some people and some corporations to do the right thing. Without the national environmental policy act, the clean water act, the clean air act, and the endangered species act, I think our environment would be in even worse shape that it is now. Anyway, all this is to say, it was a bold move for those Republicans to jump ship and come over to the democratic side. Thanks.

Rock on President-Elect Obama.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Hand Jive

Before I forget, I want to take note of the fact that Josie is a crazy hands baby. She is always doing things with her hands, waving them around, grabbing things (she reminds me of my friend Tiffany with her expressive hands). When she is going to sleep she especially likes to hold your hand and will mess about with your hand in her hand (holding it 50 million different ways) for a long time (like 30 minutes). She is way into hands. Maybe she'll be a sign language interpreter or a sculptor when she grows up.

Lucy Goes to the Polls

Mitch took the girls with him to vote today. As he was leaving the house, he told Lucy they were going to vote. Lucy asked, "for Barack Obama?" When Mitch told her yes, she said she wanted to tell Barack Obama about twinkle twinkle little star. Mitch told her that Barack Obama would not be at the polls. At which point Lucy asked, "why not??? where is he?" When Mitch told her that he was at home in Illinois, Lucy then said that she wanted to vote. When Mitch told her she couldn't, she said, "Why not??" So Mitch told her that she was too young. "That's not fair!!", was Lucy's response. I'm happy for her enthusiasm and her interest in participating in our democracy, but I don't think we need a bunch of three year olds voting...

Josie strikes out into baby speak

Josie has been making lots of word-like sounds but hasn't really known many words except mama, until now. In the past week she has learned banana (anana, according to her), ball (mball), bye, hi, and the baby signs for dog and bird. She already knows the baby signs for more and all finished. She's not as much of a verbal powerhouse as Lucy was at this age, but she is on her way. Go Josie go!! By the way, Jos, if you read this later in life - we're not worried about your language skills and besides, you learned to walk months before Lucy, so you're even steven in the global perspective.

A Glimpse of the Future

Maybe you think this post is going to be about Obama winning the election. Luckily it is looking that way now at 7:40 PM on Tuesday Nov. 4th. But this post is about a more personal vision of the future. Last night I made Lucy mad in the bathtub by revoking her wash cloth privileges after unauthorized activities (flinging water across the bathroom). Lucy was pouting in one corner of the bathtub and Josie started trying to cheer her up. Josie would creep up to Lucy and peer around her shoulder and make little happy noises. Lucy would push her off and then Josie would do the whole routine again. Until finally both Lucy and Josie were laughing hysterically.

After bathtime they then spent a glorious 20 minutes in Lucy's bed, jumping on the bed, sharing dolls, sharing stuffed animals, and playing pizza party. You have to understand, Lucy almost NEVER shares anything with Josie. She more typically spends a lot of time trying to take things away from Josie.

They are finally getting to the point where they can play together. Lucy is really starting to enjoy Josie and Josie, of course, has been crazy about Lucy from the get go. I think it is actually starting to get fun for the two of them to be sisters. I must say I enjoyed it quite a bit too. I gave Lucy lots of praise for sharing and playing so well with Josie. We had a good session of bed playtime again tonight. Let's just hope that this is a prelude for what a lot of the future sister vibe will be.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Another Cat Lover for Obama

I have no idea where this pin came from. Did Barbara Jo, my intrepid and creative mother-in-law, make it herself or is there actually someone out there selling Cat Lovers for Obama pins? Either way, my mother-in-law is a bold bad-@ss because I don't think there are that many people in southwestern Colorado running around with Obama pins of any kind on (yes, there are some, but they are by no means in the majority). In fact, at a recent craft show, a vendor selling jam told Barbara Jo that he liked her pin. He went on to add that he got the feeling that there weren't many Obama fans in the area and that the place seemed like McCain country.

All I can say is add to me to the list, sign me up as another cat lover for Obama.

Thanks to Little Jimmy and Barbara for sending along the fantastic photos. by the way, doesn't Barbara look snappy? She could give Sarah Palin a run for her money in the snappy dressing department and she would do it for a hell of a lot less than $150,000 - someone needs to show girlfriend how to shop at thrift stores, Little Miss Joe Six Pack.

A real "West Wing" Presidency?

Mitch and I have been watching old episodes of the West Wing on dvd. It is just as good as the first time around. I remember watching the show during the Bush presidency and thinking, "wow, if only we could have a real president like the fictional Jed Bartlett - but that will never happen."

Now, hearing many of Obama's recent speeches and some extended excerpts of his stump speech ("There is no pro-America and anti-America. We all love America." - I'm paraphrasing here), I am thinking that we may actually get to have our dreams of a president who is intelligent, well-spoken, and witty, come true. Not to mention a president who is thoughtful and actually seeks out and listens to expert advice. Just a few more reasons to vote for Barack Obama.

If you were a fan of the west wing, or just generally like witty dialogue, check out this fictional meeting between Jed Bartlett and Barack Obama.

I couldn't have said it better myself

Read why the NY times is endorsing Barack Obama for president here.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Your Mud and My Mud Are Not the Same

Let's talk about mud slinging. This was a topic that came up in the final Presidential debate. Both candidates accused each other's campaign of mud slinging. Given that this is politics, and that we are playing for the biggest prize in American politics, I have no doubt that mud has been slung. But let's take a close look at the kind of mud being thrown from each side.

On the Obama Side (according to John McCain in the debate): Obama's campaign is mischaracterizing McCain's tax plan and McCain's health plan. Whether this is true or not, I couldn't say. I'm sure that the Obama camp is trying to highlight the most unappealing aspects of McCain's views on these topics and may, in fact, be painting an incomplete or inaccurate picture. Yes, this probably qualifies as mud slinging.

On the McCain Side: Palin is basically calling Obama a terrorist despite the fact that the guy he hung out with (Mr. Weatherman) is a respected academic professor who has hung out with all the political muckety mucks in Chicago including republicans and democrats. McCain and Palin are implying that we "don't know who that guy is" whatever that means and that we don't know "what he will do." Well we don't know what McCain or Palin will do either since neither of them have been President or Vice President before. There have also been e-mails sent around by someone (McCain supporters, perhaps McCain operatives) saying that Barack Obama is a muslim (totally irrelevant but also totally untrue). Not to mention that chanting things about killing people goes unremarked upon at Palin rallies.

These two kinds of mud are NOT equal to each other. One is focused on the issues and the other is flinging about unsubstantiated and untrue rumors and attacks on character that are untrue and totally unrelated to any policy stances. One sucks and is dirty politics and the other is totally legitimate political warfare. They aren't even in the same league. Oh John, how far you have strayed from the high road...

I'm sorry, but you really can't make the experience argument any more

Seriously, are we supposed to sit here and take it when John McCain tries to get on his high horse about how Barack Obama isn't experienced enough to be President? I'm sorry, but the second you select a mayor/governor from Alaska with absolutely no legislative or international experience as your running mate you have lost all ability to play the experience card. Do you really want to get into that fight, because I think you are going to lose. If you stack up the collective experience of the Obama-Biden ticket against the collective experience of the McCain-Palin ticket, we democrats are the clear winners. Our guy knows politics. Our guy has legislative experience. Our guy actually knows what the Bush doctrine is. Our guy looks and acts presidential. And then when you compare Biden and Palin, there is absolutely no contest. Palin makes Dan Quayle look experienced, and that's saying something.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Puppet show

A month or so ago we went to a pretty lame puppet show with Becca and Ava in San Diego. It was the most boring rendition of the shoemaker and the elves known to history. Anyway, the other day Lucy put all these cups on Roddy and called it his puppet show. Who knows where it all comes from but it sure is both adorable and entertaining.

Weekend Update: Pictures of the Girls

We had a pretty mellow weekend. On Friday we had a fantastic morning at the beach with Rick and Jonas and Elliot. The weather was amazing: sunny and high 70's with no wind. The water was, of course, freezing but Lucy put on her little wet suit and had a great time frolicking in the water. We went to this great beach at the harbor that is totally enclosed so you don't have to worry about your kids being swept out to sea by a rogue wave. Josie spent the entire time eating sand and waving sticks around. She didn't spend as much time with giant pieces of seaweed sticking out of her mouth so we missed out on that comedy routine.

On Sunday we went to the YMCA and joined up. Then we took Josie and Lucy "swimming" in their pool. Lucy actually eventually went into the deep end by herself (Mitch was 2 feet away in the water) using one of those pool noodles and kicking madly. Of course she kicks with her feet straight down so she is totally inefficient. Both Mitch and I tried to tell her to lean forward and put her feet out behind her more but she was having none of it. You can't tell that girl how to do anything!!! (remind you of anyone?)

We have also been hard at work on obtaining an actual full night of sleep without being woken up. This is a pretty darn hard feat. Typically one or the other of the girls wakes them both up and simultaneous crying results for any length of time. In a desperate bid to get Lucy to stay quietly in her bed regardless of what Josie does, we went to four thrift stores in downtown Ventura and bought out their supply of quality stuffed animals. It is amazing the bargains you can get. I purchased 12 stuffed animals for $10 at one of the thrift stores. For around a $30 investment we now have five bags of stuffed animals that we use to bribe Lucy into better nighttime behavior. For every night that she doesn't wake up Josie and spends the whole night in her own bed, she gets a surprise in the morning. We are still getting woken up but at least she is staying in her bed. Tonight we upped the ante to she doesn't get a surprise unless she STAYS in her bed and is quiet (typically when Josie starts crying, Lucy likes to get up and come in our room to tell us that Josie is crying - as if I can't hear it loud and clear both through the door , which is like two feet away, and on the freaking monitor!!). We'll see if she earns a surprise tomorrow or not. So far she has already accumulated three dogs (honey, soft dog, and sit dog), a sheep, a cardinal, a t-rex, a cat, sully monster, and a bunny. When we get too many we'll go through the give away process and teach her about non-attachment and giving to others.
Lucy and her "surprises"

You could be a school bus, or a flower, or a mouse, or a tree

My little butterfly!! First she was a flower, then a chicken, and now a butterfly! Who could wish for anything more???

On Saturday Mitch took Lucy and Josie to a costume party at one of our new local play places called Imagine That. Josie wore Lucy's old chicken costume and Lucy got her new costume, shown above. They had a great time and I was sorry to have missed it (I had to work on Saturday planting plants with kids from Santa Monica and some people who like parks and also wield a great deal of power and influence - don't ask). Afterwards I met up with Mitch and Lucy and Josie and we all went to the park together. On the way to the park, Lucy was telling me about getting her own halloween costume and she was encouraging me to dress up for halloween:

"Mom, you should make a costume for halloween. You could be a mouse, or a flower, or a tree, or...I don't know, a school bus, or a car, or a van."

How hard do you think it would be to make a school bus costume? Does anyone have a refrigerator box they aren't using?

Family portraits

You think this is a picture of our cat, but really it is not...

I love shoes - they don't care if you are fat or skinny, they come in amazing colors and shapes and sizes and they snazz up an outfit like nothing else. The other night, during bath time, I looked down on the floor and saw three extremely cute pairs of brown mary-janes. The sight made me feel so happy inside. There it was, a microcosm of the my three girl scene. Love those girls.

Later I went into the living room and started the laborious process of picking up all the toys, sippy cups, clothes, shoes, refrigerator magnets, soup pans, bags, books, spoons, etc. accumulated at the end of the day and I discovered all of these shoes. I added Mitch's to make a full family portrait since his are always so neatly put away in his room and not scattered about the living room like some people's...

Salad Days

Did I mention that our lettuce in our garden is already ready for eating? Our sunny front spot plus water plus some cool fall days are all helping the garden kick butt. The edamame beans already have beans on them, the strawberries are going great guns, and we have lots of weird melons that I think are supposed to be watermelons but don't look anything like watermelons. I say bring on the fall season!

We ate our second salad containing our own greens this weekend at Seth's birthday bbq (don't forget that I hate barbeque. But this one did have some delicious food including great grilled veggies.). The salad pictured here features green lettuce from the farmer's market and red oak leaf lettuce from our own garden.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Finally, a Tooth

Yes, Josie finally has a sliver of white showing through her bottom gums. I was starting to think that she was going to be the youngest person ever to get dentures. She eats like a fiend but having some teeth will definitely reduce our worries about choking and will make feeding her a lot easier. She doesn't like mushy or blended up food so currently we have to tear everything into tiny pieces. Since we have been out of the breast-feeding business for four months now, I say bring on the teeth!!

Sunday, October 5, 2008

A Tie? I think NOT.

O.k., o.k., I, like many others, initially viewed the vice presidential debate as a tie. Sarah Palin didn't sound like a blathering idiot so that means they tied, right? Many of the post-debate commentators talked about how well they thought Palin did. She did seem very collected and was not intimidated. She did look at the camera and didn't pass out or drool on herself. On the other hand, as Mitch pointed out to me during the debate, if you actually LISTENED to the quality of the answers from each of the candidates, there was NO COMPARISON. Every one of Joe Biden's answers was extremely detailed and revealed his depth and breadth of knowledge and experience. Almost every single one of Sarah Palin's answers relied either on the phrase "energy independence" or "maverick" as it's key, hard-hitting point, regardless of what the question was.

I don't care if you are a democrat or a republican, there is no way you can look at Palin and Biden and say that they are equally qualified. It is like that SNL skit imitating Palin and Clinton, one of them is an experienced politician and the other has almost no experience what-so-ever. I don't know whether Sarah Palin is a nice person or not. She does have lovely hair and nice glasses. I disagree with most, if not all, of her views. And beyond all that, she is almost totally unqualified to be the vice president of the United States. A mayor in Alaska??? A first time governor??? Are you kidding me? Not to mention that John McCain has completely eroded any credibility of his claim to put country first by selecting a running mate that is so clearly NOT the best qualified of those whom he could have picked.

By the way, I thought Joe Biden's agreeing with her on the wind fall tax thing was a nice touch, especially when he emphasized that McCain didn't agree with her. And, did everyone hear that she gave the wrong name for the general in Afghanistan? A tie? Are you kidding me?

By the way #2, Mitch read that the actuarial tables for a man John McCain's age with a history of melanoma is 1 in 6. Those aren't good odds. What you need to ask yourself is, how do you feel about President Palin?

Good Things

You might conclude from some of my previous posts that I spend all of my current existence dreaming up lists of things I would do if I didn't have two kids. I want to remedy that by posting a list of all the fun things that I get to do now, WITH my two crazy kids. We had dinner with some friends from the park on Friday night and we were talking about the old cliche of how your kids are only young once (or is the cliche that YOU are only young once?? either way, it's clear that time doesn't often loop back upon itself in our current configuration). It does make everything bitter sweet knowing that once this phase of the girls' life is past we won't ever get it back. When they are both screaming at 2 AM that is a fact that I praise the universe for repeatedly (by the way, they have both slept peacefully in their room together for the past four nights - yes! we have our bedroom back!). But when Josie is giving me her toothless smile or Lucy is telling me about how her new stuffed dog, Curly Fluffy, likes to be dragged around the house, this is a fact that makes me a tiny bit sad.

So here it is, a list of some of the great parts of my life as I currently know it.

13. The playground on the beach. We have not one, but TWO playgrounds on the beach. Could there be anything better than pushing your kid on the swing while you stare out at the ocean and contemplate the universe?
12. Smoothie time. Sometimes it creeps me out that my three year old daughter requests Jamba Juice by name but who doesn't love a good smoothie? Watching both of my daughters suck down Orange Dream machine while we stroll along on a sunny afternoon is pretty much bliss.
11. The carousel. Once again, we have not one, but three carousels that we visit regularly. There is one at the harbor, a crappy one in the mall, and one at the Santa Barbara zoo. I love riding with Lucy or just watching her ride. Something about a carousel is still totally magical to me and I am super happy that our kids get to ride them regularly.
10. Gardening with the girls. I love picking strawberries, tomatoes, mint, and flowers with Lucy and Josie. I love watching them get muddy knees and look at bugs and chasing them down as they truck down the sidewalk clutching handfuls of fruits and vegetables.
9. Playing Band. This is something that Mitch, and Lucy, and Josie do and it involves guitars and kazoos and drums and recorders and frequently ends with a shout of "Thank You Ventura!" Need I say more?
8. Listening to Lucy say crazy things and tell funny stories. She says so many funny things, I can't even remember them all. Today, out of the blue, she said, "I want a hamster."
7. Making Josie and Lucy laugh. It is great to make your kids laugh. It is fun to make anyone laugh but when I make the girls laugh I feel like I am doing a decent job as a parent.
6. Sharing a treat. I love sharing yogurt or cookies or a bagel with the girls. I like all of us sitting around enjoying our food.
5. Drinking tea with the girls. I love that both Josie and Lucy like tea. It feels so civilized to sit around together sharing a cup of tea, even if it is out of a big mug and we are sitting on the floor wearing our pajamas, instead of all dressed up at a table drinking out of fine china.
4. Nap time!! I loved taking naps with Lucy back in the day and love taking naps with Josie now. I love having her fall asleep in my lap and then laying back to sleep for an hour or two with her nestled in my lap. Total bliss.
3. Buying them stuff. I know you're not supposed to like this and I do try to limit how much crap I buy them but I still love it. I love picking out stuffed animals or cool toys or fun things for them to play with. It is fun to get to indulge my own childish side and it is great fun to watch them play with whatever new thing. The thrift store is a good guilt free way to indulge this whim.
2. 95% of all family time. Yes there are those moments when I want to kill Lucy because she has snatched something out of Josie's hand for the 50 thousandth time and there are the times when Josie makes me crazy because she keeps asking me to read her a story but then rips the book out of my hands after two pages. BUT by and large, just hanging out with the girls and Mitch, regardless of what we are doing, is great fun.
1.Giving the girls snuggles and telling them that I love them. I love cuddling with the girls. Lucy isn't a very cuddly person in general so I am sure the days of cuddling with her will be short-lived. So I am relishing every moment of it now, while it still lasts.

Same Old Story

We went to see Josie's urologist on Thursday. In some ways it was reassuring. After the confusing acid trip of our last visit where the doctor implied that it was a miracle that Josie's good kidney was still functioning (which previously had never been questioned - her good kidney was her good kidney and was supposed to stay that way!) and then mentioned that maybe she was miraculously cured and wouldn't need any further surgery (when the initial diagnosis was that her anatomy was so messed up that there was no way we would get out of this without major surgery), this time we were back to the original story. Her VCUG, done that day, showed that she still has grade V reflux on her left side so she will need to have major surgery in a few months. The surgery will involve reimplanting both of her ureters on the left side (she has two instead of one) and then "resculpting" her primary ureter on the left side. The reimplantation somehow results in the formation of a functional valve between the ureter and the bladder (this is the critical missing element in Josie's anatomy currently that allows lots of urine to backflow up to her kidneys). The surgery will involve a three to four day stay at the hospital and will include temporary stints in her ureters for a few days.

I was extremely disappointed because I was hoping for the miracle cure. I was hoping that Thursday would be our last visit to the pediatric urology department at the UCLA medical center. I was hoping that we would be able to come home and stop giving our daughter antibiotics three times a day. But no such luck.

So that is the crap news. Josie's kidney plumbing on the left side is still all messed up. The good news is that our guy has done this kind of surgery on little kids literally thousands of times and none of them has expired on the table. The good news is that we have a hospital with not one but literally tens of pediatric anaesthesiologists. The good news is that Josie has already had anaesthesia twice and did just fine. The good news is that Dr. C. says that his surgery will fix the problem. The good news is that a person has two kidneys and you can live on just one. The good news is that Dr. C. claims that even Josie's messed up kidney is 85-90% intact and that if anything happens to her good kidney, she could survive on her bad one. So that's all reassuring. We have tentatively scheduled the surgery for sometime in January.

Until then we have an extremely happy baby (except when she doesn't get her way) who has a complicated regime of antibiotics and pro-biotics all working together to keep her intestines happy and her kidneys infection free.

Monday, September 29, 2008

List 37.9: Things I would do with more Me Time

As with all the other lists, this is a momentary snapshot - not a comprehensive list. Try not to judge me too harshly by the pedestrian nature of it all...

10. More yoga (like more than ten minutes a day three times a week)
9. Work out! Lift weights, use the elliptical machines. I can jog with the girls but haven't done the gym thing with them.
8. Read more books.
7. Go tea tasting.
6. Do some linocutting and printing (the sharp linoleum cutting tools and lots of loose ink are not very conducive to working around the girls)
5. Window shop and actually go into some shops (I'm not saying I would buy anything but looking is always fun).
4. Browse for books.
3. Canvas for Barrack Obama
2. Get more massages (more than zero for instance)
1. Go to lots of libraries and peruse novels.

List 37.8: Things I would like to do with the family when the girls are older

This is just the stuff I can think of at 9:30 PM on a Monday night after several nights of insufficient sleep do to lots of baby wake-ups. This list is by no means exhaustive (exhausted, yes, exhaustive, no.).

1o. Go live in Mexico or Guatemala for three or four months and go to language school.
9. Rent a house on Priest Lake in Idaho for a week.
8. Go camping in as many national parks as possible.
7. Travel to as many places as possible.
6. Go stay in a yurt somewhere groovy.
5. Visit museums in Washington, D.C.
4. Volunteer on a regular basis for food share or some local gleaning group.
3. Go on a habitat for humanity vacation somewhere where we build houses for people who need them.
2. Go to Hawaii and rent a house and spend lots of time snorkeling and exploring.
1. Go camping in Big Sur.

Reminders: List 37.6 - Mitch and Me Things

I view this lists as little reminders of things that I liked to do before I had kids. Here's a list of some things I would love to have time to do with Mitch in some imaginary child free time. Keep in mind this is the public list.

7. Go climb Cathedral peak again or some other nice, simple, high Sierra climb.
6. Go snorkeling somewhere good.
5. Go see They Might Be Giants or some other kick butt concert.
4. Go canyoneering in Zion (as long as we could find a canyon that wasn't too claustrophobic - I'm not a big fan of confined spaces...).
3. Go on a bike tour in Canada or New Zealand.
2. Read books on the beach while Mitch goes surfing (not strictly a togetherness thing but the success of our relationship has some serious underpinnings in simultaneous, mutually satisfying yet different activities).
1. Plan and build our playhouse / guest house.

List 37.3 - Things I would do if I had an hour/day/week minus kids plus friends

While I thought before I had kids that I would be one of those people who regularly leave their kids with baby sitters and go off and do exciting adult things; and while I also thought I would be one of those people who is backpacking, throwing pots, and making oil paintings while carting around two small children; it turns out that I am actually not those people. I am actually a person who doesn't know any good babysitters except our friends and neighbors Seth and Elise. I am a person with at least one difficult child who, while incredibly charming and unique, also requires a fifty page manual to manipulate into doing things like brushing her teeth. I am a person who didn't go out that much before I had kids and now spends most of her time that isn't at work either doing kid-friendly activities or watching dvds of quality t.v. shows like the Wire. This is a good life and I'm not complaining (at least not too much). But this last weekend we went miniature golfing with our friends Sarah and Rick and their kids Jonas and Elliot and it made me think about things that don't really fit in with my current life. It was fun "golfing" but I spent most of the time chasing Lucy all over the course and recovering her putter and ball from the most recent point of abandonment. I think miniature golf has to go on the list of things to do with the kids once they are a bit older. This got me thinking about the things I would do if my fairy godmother came down and said, "Knock yourself out. I'll take care of the kids for an hour, a day, a week." So here is a list of some of those things. Don't expect to be wowed, most of them are petty and reveal what a shallow human being I am. This list is about things I would do with friends. I'll post some other lists of things I would do by myself, with my main man, or with my kids when they get older.

Friends Only List

10. Go to a book store and browse for a few hours.
9. Actually try on some items of clothing in a clothing store rather than run in, grab something that looks reasonable with the plan to return it if it doesn't fit or is ugly.
8. Spend a day wandering around in Santa Monica. I was there today for a meeting and it sure looks groovy.
7. Go to a spa with my gals and get a massage and then sit around in some hot tubs yukking it up.
6. Go hiking with my adult friends only.
5. Many people are going to groan at this one, but I would love to go to Ikea for a day and just wander around with my girl friends and look at stuff - no husbands, no kids, no one implying that a new blanket/stuffed animal/chair with a weird Scandinavian name is the last thing that we need in our house. No one to shatter the illusion that with these few choice items cleanliness and order would become the rule in my chaotic house.
4. Go to some sort of creativity boot camp where you knit, throw pots, paint, and write poetry all day long.
3. Lay on a warm beach reading books and occasionally going swimming.
2. Go snorkeling somewhere good.
1. Wander around somewhere interesting where you could actually go into shops, museums, restaurants, etc. and look around while having a leisurely stroll with friends discussing life, politics, and Sarah Palin's latest gaffs.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

The Last Swear Words Standing

As everyone who knows me knows, I have a terrible potty mouth. I think I told my future father in law to f-off while playing pass the pigs mere hours after meeting him. My mother-in-law actually gave a wonderful speech at our wedding where she discussed my swearing like a sailor and concluded by saying she loved me sh*tloads.

Well, since I started working in a real office for the federal government I have tried to curtail my swearing. I used to just swear on the weekends and try to refrain from saying even mild (in my opinion) words like shit at work. This was a pretty big challenge for someone who used to regularly use the f word. I actually say freaking now which is something that I used to make fun of people like Peter Hodum for saying (it seemed so Leave it to Beaverish at the time). There are only a couple of swear words that I still regularly use and that is crap and Jesus. A person still needs an expletive now and then for crap sake.

But now, even these little gems are going to have to go. Lucy now regularly says, "Jesus" with lots of drama. And the other day she said, "Where is all my crap?" I also say that she is being a pain in my butt, which she now also says. So now all of these things are going to have to go. Is this even possible? While I think it is hilarious when Lucy says this stuff, it probably won't be that charming outside of our house. Plus, I just picture her saying Jesus to a bunch of people who believe in Jesus and that's not very nice. Besides, it might even turn out that she will believe in Jesus. I don't want her to be the one with the atheist parents who gets blamed when someone tries to shoot the republican president (this actually happened to me. I got in a couple of dust-ups at school after all the kids said that my dad was the one who shot Ronald Reagan). If I don't want her to get into fights over Ronald Reagan, then it's probably best that she doesn't go around saying Jesus all the time.

So I will do my best to replace jesus with jeez, god with gosh, and crap with, well, I'll have to think on that one.

It won't be the last time...

Tonight, after Lucy dumped juice on herself in the van, and after the van's tire blew out, while we were waiting in a shell station for triple A to come and help yank off the damn bolts on the tire, while Lucy was mad that her shirt was wet and that I did not have another one, and while she was incensed that we were stuck in Thousand Oaks and not at home with her nuk nuks, she said,

"You are the worst Mama."

And I thought to myself, "well, this won't be the last time that I hear that one."

My Dream Library

I love libraries. I have always been a fan. I grew up going to the Pullman Public Library with my family at least once a week. When I was six (or maybe seven) years old I got lost walking home from the library by myself for the first time. My mom had walked me home several times and she had taken me to the library but she left me to walk home by myself as my first grand adventure. Unfortunately I got lost and had to be brought home by a local policeman who knew my mom and happened to drive by when I was bawling on the sidewalk.

When I was in middle school we made a little reading club (W.O.R.M.s - World's Only Reading Masters) that met once a month in the evening at the public library. It was great to be able to go into the library when no one else could. The library has always been a place of peace and quiet, endless stories, and a place where you can find anything out. I have library cards from libraries all over the place - Forks, Washington; Olympia, Washington; Davis, CA; Corvallis, Or. Everywhere I lived, no matter how temporarily, I immediately got a library card.

In addition to loving libraries, I also used to own a lot of books. When I was little I owned some books but mainly checked books out from the library. But while I was in college and graduate school, I started buying more books - both reference books and fiction. With school work and other socializing, it took me too long to get through a book to rely on the library (I don't remember to renew books and it took me more than the standard two weeks to work through whatever stack of books I came home with). Anyway, because of that book buying plus living in towns with good used book stores and book stores that sold remainders, by the time I finished graduate school I owned a lot of books.

Then I had a random moment in life where for about a month I thought I was going to move to Washington, D.C. in a u-haul trailer. At that point, I gave away almost all of my books. I decided that even though I loved them all, I seldom re-read anything and I just didn't have room to take all of these books across the United States with me. It turned out I never moved to the East Coast, but by the time I realized I wasn't moving, the books were already gone.

So now I have a modest number of books and I have an intermediate strategy where I buy some books but check some out from the library. I still have a tendency to give away my books after I have read them. One drawback of this is that I can't look around me and see everything I have read. And sometimes I forget books that I would like to remember.

Anyway, tonight while driving home from a party I heard Alberto Manguel on To The Best of Our Knowledge talking about his ideal library. His ideal library is full of dark wood and is made of stone and is fairly dark and foreboding. He actually built this library and lives in it. Anyway, enough about him.

My ideal library would have lots of light and windows and would be full of good nooks and crannies for reading. It would have tables where you could eat scones and drink tea (I know it's not good for the books but it's my library damn it) and lots of comfy over stuffed chairs - wing chairs and square chairs, rocking chairs, and mid-century ones too. It would have window seats and lots of tall wood shelves made of some light colored wood like pine or bamboo. It would have great views of a really beautiful outdoor scenery- preferably coniferous forest or a lake or the ocean - someplace where it rains a lot. No open prairie. The school library at Evergreen has a lot of the features of my ideal library except that the book shelves are mainly metal and you can't eat in it.

So that's my dream library. Until I have my dream library, I will just focus on keeping Mitch from piling little girl guitars, remote controls, and music sheets on the only six pristine shelves of books in our entire house...

Cheesecake Factory

Tonight at a retirement party for a friend, I had cheesecake from the cheesecake factory for dessert. I've heard people talking about the cheesecake factory (it seems like a popular place to go with our 20 something interns) but I have never been in one and I have never had one of their cheesecakes before now. The cheesecake was good enough (totally passable but no Scott Fischbein by any means) but as I was eating it I thought, "What does it say about our society that calling a restaurant a _____ factory is actually a viable marketing strategy?" I've only been to a spaghetti factory restaurant once, but once was enough.

What is it with these places? Why is calling a restaurant a factory a good idea? Factories bring images to my mind of mass production, endless sameness, uniformity, and mediocrity. It does not evoke images of quality, craftsmanship or that personal touch. In fact, factories are the last thing that I want associated with my food. Somehow in America, the image of ten thousand average cheesecakes rolling down a conveyor belt is just what the doctor ordered. Or was that eight billion plates of spaghetti...?

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Out with the tomatoes, in with the lettuce

It is always sad to say goodbye to plants. Mitch does all the pruning around here because I am too much of a wuss and I get attached to all of my plants. I don't even like to cut them back. But this weekend I made the big move and yanked out our summer tomatoes. They were getting to the end of their run. All of their leaves were going yellow and the fruit production was slowing down. Plus I decided I wanted that third of our garden for some other things.

So now I have four different kinds of lettuce, broccoli (yes, can you believe it? I am going to grow broccoli), and edamame beans ready to go in the ground. We'll see if they all get eaten by bugs before we get to eat them. I got the plants on Friday but then we used up all of our planting energy planting half of the lettuce, edamame beans, and flowers at Lucy's school on Friday and I haven't had any time for gardening since. I hope to get everything in the ground tomorrow and in a few weeks we can go out front for our salad fixings!

First Presidential Debate - a Tie?

O.k., first off, I didn't get to watch the whole thing and when I was watching I was also listening to Josie and Lucy and feeding Josie and Lucy. So I wasn't the best observer. Still it seemed like they both did pretty well. Both McCain and Obama came off as intelligent people in my opinion. Which isn't any big surprise since they are both smart people. Of course, being a big Obama supporter, I thought his answers made more sense than McCains but overall, it seemed like a tie to me.

My biggest question is did my friend's Tiffany and Jason go to the debate since it was in their home town? Was it hard to get in? What was it like in person? Maybe Tiff will post a comment here and tell us all about it.

Christy and Josie both go to the Doctor

I'm not a big doctor person. Going to the doctor means being organized and making an appointment and then actually remembering the appointment. All of these things are challenging steps for me. But this week I actually went to see my GP about my possible asthma. He made me blow into a lung function thingy and listened to my lungs and said, yes indeed, I have mild asthma. He gave me some cortical steroids to inhale twice a day for a couple of weeks and a prescription for an inhaler. I have to go back in three weeks for a follow-up visit. Guess how they code a follow-up visit in my doctor's appointment book. You guessed it, f u. Well f u too I say.

On Thursday Josie goes to see Dr. Churchill yet again. Our pediatric urologist (who knew there even was such a thing) is seeing a lot of us these days. Josie gets her second ever VCUG. For those of you who don't have a child with kidney problems, a VCUG is a voiding cystourethrogram. It is basically a series of x-rays where they use a dye to look at what happens to liquids in your bladder when you pee. The question is, does any of the liquid backwash up to your kidneys through your ureter? Your pee is not supposed to go backwards - it is supposed to be a one-way process. We all have little valves where our ureters join our bladders that keep pee from going up and bothering our kidneys.

As you all probably know, Josie's plumbing is all messed up on one side (she has two ureters and they interfere with each other). We were initially told that the only way to fix this mess would be surgery. But now our pediatric urologist thinks it may have fixed itself somehow. On Thursday we will watch Josie pee through the magic of x-rays and find out if she still needs to have surgery or if she has cured herself.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Between the couch cushions

A month or so ago when Mitch was cleaning the giant yellow couch prior to selling it on Craig's List, he found an asthma inhaler. We have no idea who it belonged to. In classic pack rat mode, Mitch actually saved the thing. Well recent events have made me thankful for that bit of crazy stashing of things.

After Lucy was born I went through this 9 month or so period where every time I went running, I couldn't breathe and would hack up great chunks of phlegm for about an hour afterwards. It pretty much sucked but I was reluctant to go to the doctor. Finally it seemed to go away. Later I talked to a friend of mine who said that getting mild asthma post pregnancy wasn't that unusual.

Well come around to present day and the same thing is happening all over again post Josie delivery. Every time I go running (and mind you, I don't run very fast. Small children and elderly people regularly pass me) I treat myself to an hour of labored breathing and gross snot in my lungs. Mitch has mentioned several times that a sane person would see a doctor concerning such a thing. The other added twist is that now when I get a cold, it always turns into this ugly chest extravaganza where I have to sit up on the couch all night wheezing and worrying that I am going to suffocate before morning.

Just such an episode happened this weekend. I have round two of the cold that is going around (I already had the damn thing two weeks ago but now I have it again). Yesterday afternoon it became this debilitating chest thing where I nearly expired walking to the park. A friend of mine at the park who used to be a respiratory therapist said I looked like crap and needed to go to the doctor. She also asked if I was using my inhaler and I said, "what inhaler?" Things were getting pretty ugly around 6 PM and I was starting to consider going to the emergency room (why do these things always happen on a Friday after 5 PM) when I decided that using an unknown person's inhaler that expired in 2004 was a great idea. Who doesn't get their prescription medicine out of the couch cushions?

Yes, I am an idiot. Yes, I should have gone to the doctor ages ago. But at least I looked up albuterol on the web and found out that there is a pretty generalized dosage for people over 12. Anyway the good news is that the albuterol worked like a charm. Within seconds I could actually breathe. The crappy part was that I had to keep using the inhaler every four hours for the next 12 hours but now I feel a bit better.

I swear next week I am going to the doctor for real. But until then, thank goodness for the couch cushions.

It Turns Out that Hell is spelled F.O.U.R. A.M.

We made a big leap forward in the livability scale last night but boy was it a costly one. We finally moved Josie's crib into Lucy's room after a year of sharing our room with her and two weeks of Mitch and I sleeping on thermarests in the living room. We were worried that the move would disrupt Josie's new found ability to sleep solidly through the night without waking anyone up but we decided to forge ahead because both of us are tired of sleeping on the floor.

Well, it wasn't Josie that was distressed by the move. Despite months of advance warning and steady talking up of the idea, Lucy was none too pleased to have to share her palace with Josie. We managed to get through bedtime with no major hitches but Lucy woke up around midnight and started causing trouble. First it was the scary monsters (12:15 AM), then it was a sweater (1:30 AM), then it was the alligators (1:45 AM), then it was juice, "I WANT JUICE!!!!" (3 something AM). Finally around 4 AM I dragged her into the living room so that I could yell at her without waking up Josie. I gave Lucy some ultimatums (no Jungle book tomorrow if you don't shut up and go to sleep) while Mitch took Josie out of Lucy's room in anticipation of a giant Lucy screaming fit. I put Lucy back to bed and then she was quiet. She had won, Josie was out of her room.

Mitch and I had a mini parenting conference at 4:15 AM and decided that this wasn't good. So back into Lucy's room went Josie, with the added incentive to Lucy that if she was quiet and went back to sleep that in the morning Mitch would take her to store and she could pick out any stickers that she wanted.

Apparently, stickers weren't enough. Lucy started screaming at full decibel that she wanted juice. Then it degraded into screaming for Mama, and then just generalized enraged screaming. Josie amazingly slept through the ruckus for almost ten minutes and then it started. The loudest, most high pitched, incredible tandem screaming that our house has known. One of them would slack off and then the other would really shine through.

The only fortunate thing that a person can say about it is that it only lasted for about ten minutes. And then we were able to get in our three hours of sleep before Josie woke us up in the morning. Ah parenting. We're all looking forward to tonight, not.

Josie Turns 1, The blog makes it to 100

Lucy helps Josie open her present from Grandma Jo and Grandpa Jim

Lucy and Josie both like the cake, don't tell anyone that I didn't make it myself...

Josie had her first birthday on Tuesday this week. In an unanticipated turn of events, I would say that while Josie liked her carrot cake she wasn't as ecstatic about it as Lucy was about her applesauce cupcake on her first birthday. In general, Josie is much more of an epicurean than Lucy. Josie loves to eat and is particularly interested in eating whatever it is that YOU are eating whether that is pesto or pizza. Anyway, she liked her cake and hopefully she won't realize until she is forty that her cake was store bought while I made Lucy's. Chalk it up to eroding quality over time or maybe just relaxation of the momma worries by the time baby number two comes around. With Lucy I was concerned about letting her eat some store bought sugar fest. With Josie I was just happy that Mitch had time to go to the store and get her a special treat...Although we did still try to stay on the "healthy" side of cake with the perennial favorite, carrot cake.

In addition to cake, Josie had a nice bath and enjoyed opening her present from Grandma Jo and Grandpa Jim. She also enjoyed eating her cards from both Grandpa Tom and Grandma Sue and Grandpa Jim and Grandma Jo. I didn't bother to wrap the stuffed animals that we got her but instead let her play with the crinkly plastic bag that they came in (only under supervision, of course). All in all, it was a fantastic birthday. And it is still going. Her new wheely bug (a present from Grandpa Tom and Grandma Sue) arrived yesterday and I have promised Lucy that she and I will make applesauce cupcakes for Josie tomorrow.

On her first birthday, here is a list of some of Josie's many accomplishments:

- a generally sunny disposition (hey, this is a huge accomplishment in my book)
- lots of crazy noises that sound very conversational, although no actual words yet
- ZERO teeth but an amazing ability to eat anything despite the lack of chompers
- not one, but two marvelous cowlicks, one in front and one in back
- a total delight in bath time which involves lots of splashing, squealing and mayhem
- lots and lots of walking including on grass, sand, carpet, grass, and stairs
- baby signs for all finished and more
- great kazoo playing
- world's best lamprey (and still lampreying at a year old!)

We are very happy that she is kicking butt and taking names in this, her first year of life. We're looking forward to lots, lots, lots more.

And, in a neat coincidence, this is the 100th post for boomvang.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Scary Monsters or Dada?

Mitch was gone last weekend. He got home around 8:30 PM and Lucy heard the car pull into the driveway and was scared. She started crying and Mitch and I went in together to reassure her. When she saw Mitch she said, "DADA!! You're home!" We asked her why she was crying and she said she heard a scary noise. I told her the noise was Dad driving home in the car and she goes, "Ooohh." As I was leaving the room, I heard her say to Mitch:

"I didn't know if it was scary monsters or Dada."

This morning when Lucy came into the living room to wake us up at 7 AM, she glanced up on the wall and saw Mitch's shiny new silver guitar that he brought back from his recent trip:

"Hey! Nice guitar Dada."

Observant and an appreciator of fine guitars, Lucy is truly her father's daughter.

Saturday, September 13, 2008


Despite the fact that Mitch and I currently replicate the 1950's model of a family where I go to work every day and he stays at home with the girls, I like to tell myself that I am almost equal to Mitch in my parenting time. I rationalize that I spend 3.5 days a week with the girls (I have three days off every weekend and I count all the after work and bedtime time as a half) while Mitch spends 4 days a week with them. Periodically, the reality of the situation makes itself apparent.

The reality is that Mitch spends 7 days a week with the girls and I spend three days a week with the whole family. We have many friends who parse the parenting equation by splitting the time with the kids between the parents so that each parent has significant alone time but Mitch and I like to hang out together on the weekends so we don't do much of the divided family thing. Typically on the weekends we all hang out together, all four of us. We do take turns in the mornings so that one of us can sleep in but that is only a couple of hours each day. Otherwise, if we do divide up, one of us takes one of the girls and the other one takes the other.

Having two kids and one adult is a whole different universe than two adults and two kids or one adult and one kid. Maybe it is just that I am inherently a more disorganized person than most (very possible) but for sure in our family, the only one who has down the multi-kid routine is Mitch. He has developed all sorts of complex systems to support and facilitate the sole parent gig. When I go out on my own with both girls I typically mess all these systems up. Not on purpose (as he sometimes thinks) but more because I can barely make it back alive, let alone make sure that the sippy cups are in the sippy cup pocket and the socks are where they belong. When I come back from the store or the beach or the playground, I feel happy to have returned without losing one of the kids or deliberately killing them or giving one of them away. Ask me where the formula ended up or where the empty bottle is and I have no freaking idea. (much to the endless frustration of Mitch).

Mitch has been gone all weekend and I must say that I am pretty pleased with myself for all the things the girls and I have gone out and done. We went to school together. We went to the beach together. We went to the mall and played and looked for new socks for Lucy. We've been having a good old time. And I think I didn't even lose any bottles, socks, or shoes or leave any banana peels or dirty diapers in the van (Mitch will be so proud), although there was that whole incident with the seagulls eating our cookies...

As both Lucy and Josie each get a little bit older, the whole double kid gig gets just a little bit easier. I'm still looking forward to Mitch coming back tonight (both because I like him and because he can lay the smack down on Lucy when she gets out of bed for the tenth time at bedtime).

Two is definitely more than one and as much as I like to think differently, and as much as I am invested in the girls to the hilt, Mitch is still the professional around here.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Visiting Inconceivable

Did you know that I am currently living in Kentucky with my mom and dad?

This weekend as we were driving around in the van after running errands, Lucy started asking us whether dinosaurs would eat us. We tried to explain that dinosaurs aren't around any more at which point she wanted to know where they went and when they were coming back. The whole conversation made me realize how mind bogglingly weird it is to think that there actually used to be 60 foot tall lizards walking around, right here, but now they are all gone. It sounds insane. Needless to say, Lucy wasn't having any of it and we ended up having to tell her that dinosaurs wouldn't eat us because they had to go home to their mom and dad and that they lived far away (I believe I suggested that they lived in Kentucky since this seemed like a state we are unlikely to visit any time in the near future).

Then today I had the privilege of attending the funeral of a science teacher who had worked for our park for fifteen years as an education specialist. I barely overlapped with Arnie Miller in my job. Soon after I started with the park, he retired. I do remember a couple of meetings with him to discuss the education programs at the park and I remember being impressed by his passion, knowledge, and dedication to science education. I went to the service today both because I remember Arnie fondly even if I didn't know him well but also because he was an integral part of the Division of Interpretation for 15 years and I am the Acting Chief so it seemed like a good thing to do.

The service was amazing. Arnie's whole family actually got up and talked about him and what a wonderful person he was. The temple was full of people who clearly loved Arnie and had been touched by his life. Many people talked about how much Arnie had loved nature, what a wonderful teacher he had been, and how devoted to his family he had been. Some of the descriptions of him (curious about everything, great listener, great conversationalist, extremely tolerant human being) reminded me of my own parents. Anyone who thinks communism isn't all bad but that extremism of all kinds is dangerous is o.k. in my book.

There are several things I wanted to say about this experience from my perspective. First, it was the first funeral that I have been to since I had my own kids and having kids put a whole different color to the service. It made me think about how my own children will think about me when I die and reminded me to strive to be a good parent to them and fill their lives with good memories that will be a comfort to them after I am dead.

Second, one of the things that people said about Arnie was that he never said anything bad about anyone. And I thought, "Wow, that is amazing. That is something to strive towards - putting less negativity out into the universe." One of Arnie's grandsons also mentioned that Arnie's last advice to him was "Stay close to nature. Enjoy nature. Stay close to your family. And forgive any bad things that have happened in your past." Sounds like pretty darn good advice.

Finally, one of the last parts of the funeral was the actual placing of dirt on the coffin at the cemetery. And let me tell you, this was no symbolic small scattering of a few particles of sand, this was hefting of full shovels full of heavy dirt onto a wooden coffin. It made an amazing spooky sound. It turns out that helping to bury your loved ones is actually a Mitzvah (a command from God) and was one in which most of us took part (I hefted my three shovels full of earth into the grave). And it is very serious. The family actually stayed behind after the ceremony to finish burying Arnie. It was extremely intense and was a VERY visceral confirmation of the temporariness of all things. Somehow the sound of that dirt hitting the coffin really drove home the reality that Arnie's body was in there and that all of us would end up, one way or another, in the earth.

If you know me, (and you probably do since I doubt anyone that doesn't know me is reading this) then you know that I have big issues with death. Primarily that I would prefer not to, die that is. Somehow this funeral, coming so close after my dinosaur discussion, just emphasized that human life is full of inconceivable truths. No wonder people believe all manner of crazy things when you think about all of the inconceivable things that are actually TRUE. You mean dinosaurs used to roam the earth? No way. You mean people have actually walked on the moon? No way. You mean I, and everyone I know and every living thing I have encountered will one day cease to exist? No way.

Dinosaurs and Death. It was an interesting visit to the Inconceivable, but I wouldn't want to live there.

Sleep Draining...I Mean Training

Me yell all night long? Never...

Our children are mirror opposites of each other: Lucy is a hellion all day long who takes careful managing and a doctoral degree in psychology just to get dressed and out the door but at night she typically sleeps like a rock and doesn't bother a person. Josie is happy go lucky all day long and is equally entertained by eating cheerios at home, eating sand at the park, or eating carpet lint at school but at night she is hell baby who wants constant hand holding, rocking, and shushing just to get through until dawn.

Despite our enjoyment of all the Josie cuddling and even the sweetness of rocking her to sleep, watching her sleep, or having her rolling around in our bed from 3 AM until 6:30 AM, we finally decided it was time to bring out the smack down (as our friend Kyle says, "when the going gets tough, SMACK DOWN!"). We have tried various methods to enhance Josie's sleeping capabilities. To be honest, it is basically inconceivable to us that Mitch and I could have a child who is not a good sleeper. We both LOVE sleeping and are insanely good sleepers (fire alarms? no problem. urban noise? no problem. crying cats? no problem). I think we were both in denial that we would actually have to do something to get Josie to be a better sleeper, secretly we were both thinking she would grow out of it. Which sounds perfectly reasonable until you talk to some of our friends whose daughters are 7, 9 or 11 and who still sleep in their parents beds...

So we tried to let Josie cry it out a month or so ago. She seemed too stressed (after an hour of crying) and we caved. Mitch tried the no cry sleep solution (which our friend Becca calls the no sleep cry solution) but I couldn't implement a method that repeatedly asks one to risk not getting your child into a solid sleep by cutting out one or more of your eight gajillion sleep routine activities. Me, I'm either in or I'm out. I'm either going to soothe that baby so much that she won't wake up if world war III starts or I am going to sit in the living room and do nothing while she screams her lungs out. There's no in between for me.

So we started letting Josie cry it out on Saturday night. The method we are using is from some funky 1980's book by some guys who actually work at a place called the Crying Baby Institute (it sounds like a joke, doesn't it?). The CBI is at an actual university, even if it is one that you've never heard of (I've never heard of it anyway). It is a slightly harsher version of the Ferber method that seems to work on hard cases who will cry forever (like Josie). We let her cry for five minutes, then a quick check with no soothing. Then we let her cry with quick checks every 20 minutes until she falls asleep.

The first time we tried it was a nap time and she cried for an hour and then we let her get up (no nap). That night she did o.k. with a 25 minute crying period at bed time, following by lots of waking up but only one hour long episode at midnight that required quick checks. Although I must say she was clearly pretty darn peeved about the new system (picture her yelling for hours in baby language, "WHERE IS MY CUDDLING???? WHERE IS MY HAND HOLDING? WHAT THE @!**@!! IS WRONG WITH YOU PEOPLE??? I'M AWAKE IN HERE - BY MYSELF!!! DO YOU NOT HEAR ME???") Last night she actually slept through the night after one quick check at 10 PM.

It is still pretty hellish. We're sleeping in the living room (to give Josie peace and quiet in our room). Lucy is waking up repeatedly at night because she has a cold and also because she wants to experience the novelty of everyone camping out in the living room.

Considering that sleep deprivation almost had me crying in the mall at lunch time on Sunday because they only had one piece of cheese pizza left (when I needed two - one for me and one for Lucy), all I can say is that if some heinous turn of events results in the McCain Palin sideshow being elected and then Palin ends up as President, I hope either that her child is a hell of a lot better sleeper than mine or that she doesn't feel about nannies the way she feels about personal chefs.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Bath time

Who Are You This Time?

In a political race that just gets nuttier and nuttier, we now have the republicans, the incumbent party, in control of the Congress and the presidency for at least 6 of the last 8 years, now claiming to be the agents of change. John McCain's acceptance speech last week referenced himself and his policies as a whole new deal and as a team of Washington outsiders. The idea that an individual who voted with George Bush 90% of the time and who is a career politician is now trying to package himself as an agent of change and someone outside of the beltway is ridiculous. The only thing more outrageous is that some people are actually buying it.

Yes, John McCain used to be an independent thinker who worked across party lines. But since that stance got him exactly nowhere in the 2000 presidential campaign, he has been cuddling up to his parties base ever since.

This whole find a woman and start talking about change strategy feels like republicans trying to dress up in democratic clothing. I'm offended that they aren't actually focusing on what they really have going for them instead of trying to pretend to be something they are not. Why not focus on McCain's experience, his honest passion, his knowledge of foreign affairs and military strategy? Why not pick a running mate who would compliment these skills and bring another experienced mind to the table? Instead they are trying to take hold of what is working for Barack Obama, the idea of new blood in Washington and a change in America.

I find the whole republican strategy offensive and bewildering. Not surprising since I am, in fact, a democrat.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Weekend Update: San Diego Generosity

We had an awesome weekend visit to San Diego. The trip down was hell (drive should be 3 hours, took 5 hours, you read between the lines). We got to see all of our great friends who, as always, amazed us with their wonderful generosity, great conversation, funny commentaries, and general good peopleness. Our friend's Becca, Rob, Ava, and Max let us stay at their house and cooked us many great meals. Our friends Tom and Allie and Tim and Caitlin made lots of time for hanging out with us, brought over lots of great food, Caitlin did her cooking for crowds magic, and they made me MARGARITAS!! Allie cooked us an awesome barley stew and some kick ass cobbler that we ate with ice cream when we got home. And get this, Ava, who is only three (almost 4) actually gave Lucy one of her prized toys (a stuffed dog) when Lucy left. Lucy is now obsessed with the thing and carries it everywhere.

It was a blast to see everyone and get in so much hanging out time. We really appreciate how flexible all of our friends are and how much they tolerate our flaky nature, our kid-existence restrictions, and my constant need for naps. A great time was had by all. Big thanks to all of our SD buddies.

Touch Me I'm Sick

One of the odd things about tiny kids is that they often don't feel good but they seldom tell you that they are sick. In general, at least with our kids, what typically happens is that they act even more beastly than usual and just when you think to yourself, "Hmmm, maybe now IS the time to put Lucy by the side of the road with a for sale sign on," you take her temperature and find out that it is 103. (then of course you feel guilty for giving her ten thousand time outs when what she really needs is some ibuprofen and some orange juice...)

Since I often share sippy cups, snacks, juice, yogurt, and everything else with both Lucy and Josie, I typically get whatever they have. Having your kids sick with the same thing that you have (or being a day or two ahead or behind) is an interesting psychological experiment. I find myself feeling crabby with a sore throat and then all of a sudden I notice that Lucy is having a temper tantrum every ten minutes. Or, for example, yesterday I was very tired and crabby all day long. I came home and had a great time watching Lucy and Josie actually play together nicely for an hour or so. But come bed time, I found myself having to hold Josie's hand every hour all night long while she crabbed it up. And I was thinking, "I am going to have to go sleep in the garage and let this needy hell child cry it out." But guess what? Today I woke up with a snotty nose and sore throat. So who do you think probably had a sore throat and felt cruddy all last night??

Just when I am ready to give my children away and return to an existence where the only creatures dependent on me have fur and can be left outside, it turns out that we are all just a little bit sick and some vitamin C and extra rest will make the world a livable place again...

NBA not in session

One of the excellent side benefits of a presidential election occurring outside of the NBA regular season is that Mitch is searching for things to read about obsessively on the internet. Typically I am a much bigger political junkie than Mitch who thinks that all politicians are liars and crooks regardless of political affiliation. Thus it is usually difficult for me to engage Mitch in lengthy discussions of the evil doings of this or that politician.

Now that we have the Barack Obama versus John McCain battle going on and no basketball to distract, Mitch is actually interested in politics. I know it won't last and that is fine. But it sure is fun to have someone on the home front (other than my dad) to discuss politics with.

By the way, just to clarify, this is, of course, an extreme simplification of Mitch and his world view on politics and all other things. But it is true that he is more interested in this presidential election than in other recent political goings-on and it is true that I am greatly enjoying his knowledge, interest, and commentary.

You are just TOO crafty

So the old white guy has added a hot woman to his ticket. Crafty, crafty, crafty. Now we have African-American and old white guy versus old white guy and woman. It does make the playing field in the making history department a little more even. Although I must say that a novel PRESIDENT is worth more points in the history department than a novel vice president. Now is there anyone on earth who thinks that the republicans would ever have chosen a female vice president if the democrats didn't have an African-American presidential candidate? They are crafty, crafty, crafty.

I'm not so sure about Sarah Palin though. Let me just lay all my personal baggage on the table here. Let me get into the petty. Who has five kids in today's world? Especially in America? I hope they are all environmental innovators or champions for peace and justice, or else Sarah Palin owes the world (yes, I am living in my glass house of two kids and throwing some big stones. I said I was going to be petty and baggage laden). And what about those Congressional earmarks? And what kind of a name is Trig (isn't that an abbreviation for Trigonometry? As much as I liked that class I still wouldn't name my kid Trig.). And, no matter how much I am for do-it-yourselfness, I would rather pay my highly paid governor to work a few hours at home in the evening on important government issues rather than have her making home cooked meals because its too white-collar to have a chef (can I have her chef? Mitch is getting tired of cooking all the meals and there is only so many times that a person can have tofu dogs or frozen pizza for offense to Mitch - you don't see me lifting a finger in the kitchen for cooking OR cleaning during the week).

I'm just not sure about young Sarah as a vice president. I applaud her achievements. It is amazing that she is a state governor at 44. It is amazing that she is a mom of five and still does all of her professional work. Clearly she is kicking butt and taking names. But she does seem to have made some dubious choices in the political arena (and Trig, really?) such as being anti-choice, getting lots of money in earmarks (although that is what politicians do, but it is hard to claim to be against them when you have worked so hard to get a lot of political pork yourself), and perhaps suggesting that your staff might want to have your nasty ex-brother-in-law fired.

I'm just saying interesting person with great achievements, but vice president??? I don't think so.

P.S. Is it just me or does she look too much like a hot glasses model? I just have this feeling that she was not a nerdy ugly duckling kid with glasses... Does she even need those things or are they a prop to give a more studious look?

P.P.S. And if you really think that women who voted for Hillary Clinton are going to now vote for John McCain because he has a female vice president, then you are out of your freaking gourd. No amount of ovaries can overcome anti-choice, nutty political party affiliations, and a whole slate of entirely right wing points of view. Need I remind you that Hillary Clinton is a DEMOCRAT?

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Si Se Puede Barack

Lucy, Mitch, and I watched Barack Obama's nomination acceptance speech tonight. Lucy didn't watch all of it because we had to get in a little Sesame Street before bedtime. But it was music to my ears to hear her saying, "I want to watch Barack Obama!"

I have been listening to some of the speeches from the Democratic convention as I drive home from work in the evenings. There have been some great speeches. But tonight it finally sunk in what an incredible opportunity we have with this election. Finally, after more than 200 years, we can fulfill the promise of America. We have claimed for so long that anyone can be president. We have claimed the Horatio Alger myth of economic, political, and social success - of pulling yourself up by your bootstraps. And for once, especially now, it would be so great, so amazing, so affirming, if we could have a president who was NOT an old white guy. No offense to the old white guys, some of my closest friends are old white guys (my dad, little jimmy, and many others). But haven't you had your turn for the last two hundred years? Isn't it time to say, "Hey, I think there might be other people out there in our nation of 200 million who might be able to do the job. Maybe a non-white guy, or a non-white woman, or a woman period. Maybe we should let someone else take a shot."

To be perfectly honest, I don't even care if Barack Obama is a terrible president. I don't think he will be. I think he will be an AWESOME president. More on that later. But even if he was a totally ineffective president (think Jimmy Carter, sorry Jimmy, I love you, but history suggests perhaps you weren't the most effective president...), he would still be someone other than an old white guy as president. His presidency would still affirm the best feelings we have ever had about America, but were afraid weren't true. A Barack Obama presidency would say, "Hey, we are the country we always thought we were!"

So why do I think Barack Obama will be a great president? First, he isn't afraid to tell the truth even when that truth is unpopular. Case in point. Both Hillary Clinton and John McCain supported rescinding the gas tax while all of America was freaking out over high gas prices. This despite the fact that every economist on earth agreed that this move would do absolutely nothing to lower gas prices. What did Barack Obama say? He said something along the lines of, hey, I'm sorry but that idea isn't going to work. This isn't an easy problem to solve.

Second, I think his youth and newness to the government is an attribute in his favor. As a young, unseasoned, but enthusiastic government servant myself, I think there is a lot to be said for people who are new to the business and are still idealistic and think big things can be done. As Van Jones said,

"I want to break people out of their cynicism, because the level of cynicism that we have been indulging in is a luxury that we cannot afford. It is indulgent to live in the richest, most advanced technological society in history and say, “We cannot do it.” We have the best shot of anyone at solving the big problems. We have technologies that thirty years ago people couldn’t have imagined: the Internet, laptop computers, cellphones. You and I have better computers on our person than the U.S. government had when it landed a man on the moon. Everyone you know is a walking technological superpower by the standards of thirty years ago. To be playing helpless and throwing up our hands when we haven’t even tried to solve these problems is totally unacceptable to me." (Van Jones Sun Interview March 2008)

It is time for an realistic optimist. Not an ostrich head in the sand idiot like some current presidents who shall remain nameless. But also not an overly experienced, potentially jaded guy like John McCain either. And that's not even touching on pro-choice, or whether you think people who make millions of dollars are still inside the middle class or whether you think tax breaks will really solve our health insurance crisis. (come on John, that is your solution? really?)

That's enough for now. I will write more about Barack Obama in later weeks as I figure out what I am going to do to help his campaign besides buy a bumper sticker and put a sign in my lawn. For now, let's just say "Si se puede." And please, America, for once in my freaking life, could we be on the right side of history on this one? If we pass up this opportunity to live up to our promises, I might have to start looking for a different homeland.