Monday, January 31, 2011

Before the Sun Says Hello.

Tonight was one of those nights where the mom of the house attempts to sneak 10 minutes of solitude, only to be found hiding fully clothed atop the toilet lid, reading US Weekly. Naturally, it was about 15 seconds before the bathroom door handle was turned by little hands, and in padded two barefoot children ready to lean over the tub and turn on the water, and asking 56 questions a minute.

Sighing, I attempted first to tune them out. Of course I lost that game, and 3 minutes after trying for my escape I sheepishly held two little hands as we descended the stairs together. When my husband asked where I'd been, I considered lying, but I came clean. He laughed at me. I pouted. And then I laughed too because what the hell else could I do?


I have a constant internal struggle going on. On one side is Super Mom, who never loses her cool and always has a fun new activity to do with the kids and doesn't need time alone. Real Mom sometimes takes her daughter outside during dinner when said daughter decides it's funny to spit water on the table because Real Mom is at a loss for what the hell else to do. Super mom doesn't let dishes pile in the sink, bakes with her kids for fun, and always has a freshly mopped floor. Real Mom does dishes when there are more bowls in the sink than in the cupboards, bakes after bedtime to avoid the inevitable messes made by toddlers, and isn't even sure where her mop is living right now. Super Mom has the kids bathed, jammied, brushed, lotioned, and in bed reading 3 bedtime books each by 8 p.m., sharp. Real Mom had a late meeting at work and has limited time with the kids, so when she looks up from coloring on the floor and realizes it's 8:35 she skips the bath and lotion, lets the toddler boy sleep in the cozy pants he wore to daycare that day, and is lucky if she remembers to brush her own teeth before falling asleep on the couch. Super Mom has a mom's group, a book club, and the HOA she is active in, and people call her for mommy advice. Real Mom talks to her mom friends online and via text because who has time these days for long phone calls, has been reading the same 3 books for 6 weeks now and can't seem to finish even one (see: falling asleep on couch), is pretty sure she's violating at least 5 of the HOA CC&Rs at this very moment, and answers the phone when a Mommy friend calls for advice and wonders to herself why anyone would call her when she so clearly does not have her own shit together.


When they finally were in bed, he 45 minutes past bedtime (after 3 escape attempts on his part, 2 songs from mama, and a bottom bunk carefully stacked with Puppy, Blankie, Bunny, and Car) and she an hour late (Baby Rainbow Love her only request) I snuck back into the bathroom and took a long bath. At one point I realized I'd been in My Place, sitting up and staring absently into the reflections on the water's surface, for long enough that my toes had pruned. After 1 day of a violent stomach bug and 2 more days of recovery wherein my appetite was non-existent and the smell of pretty much everything made my belly do flips, I was just relieved to have been able to stomach dinner and make it through the day without feeling like death warmed over. I was happy to have 15 minutes of solitude with no one to answer to and no one's needs to attend to and no noise.


Super Mom never needs time alone. And if she does get time without the kids, it's to slip away for a romantic dinner with her handsome husband before returning home to kiss her darling childrens' foreheads and retire to her chambers.

Real Mom craves alone time each and every day, and then feels fierce guilt over eagerly awaiting bedtime because it means time for a bath alone (since every other bath is shared with two little cherubs) and time to read a book (see: falling asleep on the couch). Real Mom both feels she does not demand as much alone time as she 'deserves' and that she is selfish for demanding any.


The morning had started early with Rohan (carrying his big blankie and Puppy) crept into our dark room moaning, "I want Mommmmmmmmy." Ten minutes later, Luca was there too, and at first it was peaceful warm-baby bliss, with their sweet faces cuddled side by side. Within minutes, he was rolling all over the place, laying half on me and half on his sister, her telling him to go away and him sleepily crying and saying, "Noooooo" over and over. I got them resituated and quiet. Only a few minutes later, she sighs heavily and and says loudly, "Rohan why are you all in my business?" and I can't help but laugh out loud. Next thing I know they are giggling like co-conspirators, her tickling his tummy and him laughing his big broad laugh. It is equal parts adorable and frustrating as my alarm clock isn't set to go off for at least 6 more minutes. And before the sun rises, those 6 minutes are a precious lifetime of heavy-lidded sleep.

I try to pawn them off on their dad, who's getting into the shower, by asking if they want to take a bath. They don't bite, opting instead to cling to me and demand things of me ("UP!" "MILK!" "NANA!" "MOMMY!") and I take a deep breath and face the day before the day has even woken up enough to face itself.


"Tomorrow morning," I say, grinning an Evil Mom grin (Evil Mom being closer on the genetic tree to Real Mom than to Super Mom), "I'm going to go into Rohan's room 30 minutes before he's ready to wake. I am going to open his door, stand next to his bed with my huge blanket and 3 pillows and a sippy cup and  a Matchbox car, and beg for him to get me. And when he does I'll pretend to sleep for 2 minutes before flipping and flopping around, crawling onto his head, accidently pulling his hair and sticking a toe in his ear. When he is annoyed by that, I'll cry. And then when he tries to calm me down, I will drape myself over one of his legs and babble endlessly."

We both laugh. Because, really? There is nothing else you can do.


The bright moments:

- When I picked him up at daycare, and he ran to hug my legs, and gave me that signature smile.
- When she told us stories about preschool over dinner, explaining how a touch on the shoulder means you are excused from the line.
- Them, together, coloring with markers and sharing and co-creating a masterpiece.
- The way his hand reached out from under his blanket and he absent-mindedly rubbed my hand and arm as I sang him songs at bedtime.
- How she refers to all her preschool friends as 'My Kids' as though she is one of the teachers and not one of the preschoolers herself.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Birthday Cake

Yesterday Luca woke up throwing up, so Darrick stayed home with her. I kept her and Rohan both home today since I had it off already for my birthday.

After a little shopping and lunch with my mom, the kids fell asleep for naptime. Over that 2 hours, my stomach started to hurt.

By 3:30 I was getting sick. If you know what I mean. And you do.

If you're going to spend your birthday sick, you may as well spend it sick with cuddles from these two:

And when Luca overheard me lamenting the fact that I can't have cake on my birthday, she made me one I could pretend to eat. Sand cake with a stick candle, anyone?

Happy Birthday to Me!

I logged on to check my bank account this morning because today is pay day and my direct deposit goes through at midnight on Thursday/Friday.

I have $500 more in my checking account than I expected to have, owed solely to:
1) Not shopping mindlessly
2) Only going out to eat 1-2 times a week (usually once with the whole family on the weekend, and once for lunch during the week)
3) Not making a weekly trek to Starbucks.

That second point there is crucial, because we have made a very concerted effort to grocery shop, cook and eat and home, and try not to buy unhealthy foods at the store. I attribute that move alone to a big piece of the savings as well as the 5% I've lost so far. Best change yet!

To celebrate, I'm taking the birthday money my mom gave me (which hasn't been deposited yet, so isn't even included in the amount above) and going shopping today. Yay!!

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

By the Numbers.

This morning I stepped onto the scale, and discovered I am down again, getting me to my first weight loss milestone, 5%. While 5% sounds so miniscule I could feel a bit depressed about how many more percents I want to add to it, I am trying to focus on the positives. And, it turns out, they are many:


"For most people 5 percent is enough to reduce the risk of developing type 2 diabetes. Your weight-loss success may also mean that you help to lower your blood pressure. There are many other health benefits, too – research has shown that a loss of 5 percent–10 percent of your starting body weight can make a real difference.

Health benefits:
~Lowers your body’s cholesterol levels
~Can improve blood sugar control
~Reduces aches and pains
~Improves mobility
~Can improve your breathing
~Helps you to sleep better
~Reduces the risk of sleep apnea
~Helps prevent angina – chest pain caused by decreased oxygen to the heart.
~Decreased your risk of sudden death from heart disease or stroke
~May stop the need from regular medication
~Reduces the risk of certain cancers

Here's the even cooler thing: on this plan, I don't feel like I'm giving things up. I mean, sure I have to decide to have a salad with grilled chicken and a few bites of cheese pizza rather than 3 slices of pizza smothered in parmesan. But if I get hungry, I always have a go-to snack in fruit (bless the zero point fruits on WW!). And I find myself not even hitting my target points most days, much less using the flex points. Not only that, but while the evenings are so amazing here we're taking advantage by walking with the kids in the wagon every night we can. This is great not only for the health benefits, but the kids love it and seem to sleep better after their evening dose of crisp, fresh air. And Darrick and I? Well, that time together without the distractions of the little ones (who contentedly play together and make each other laugh and do battle over the sippy cup of water we bring with them) or a TV or a dog breathing her snarf breath in our faces or the dishes to be done or or or's doing great things for us. We get home, eat dinner, hang out for a bit, then all head out together for a walk. Sometimes we talk the whole way. Sometimes we walk in silence. Most of the time the evening's quiet darkness is punctuated with various conversations and laughter.

I'm almost humiliated to admit what a difference not shopping mindlessly has made for me...and by proxy for us as a family. I went through our bank statement for last January, added up the 'fun spending' and the amount I put toward that totally useless part of our budget was shocking. Avoiding falling into that mindless money management has been a bit more challenging that I'd like to admit, but I've managed and honestly for every time I've desperately wanted to just browse the clearance racks at my local Target, I've had more times when I've felt sweet relief while peeking at our checking account balance.

Here's where I admit a dirty secret: January 2011 will be the first month since Rohan started daycare in August 2009 when I haven't held my breath in suspense, anxiety gnawing at my belly, while checking our account balance. So far this month I've saved $300 over last year just by keeping my debit card in my wallet. And it would have been even more ($100 more) had I not needed a new laptop power cord (a necessity in our house since the laptop is our only computer and we do so much of our daily tasks online) and a new memory card for my camera (also a necessity given the thousands of pictures I take a month). That savings is not too shabby and even more impressive is that one of my Target trips this month totaled $28.11. That's pretty much unheard of, right? I think Target automatically debits $60 from my checking account each time I walk through their front doors!

So when I open my account summary online now, I feel about $300 less anxiety. It's a great feeling to know that I don't have to scrimp and save all this week while we wait for our paychecks to come through on Friday. It's nice to know we can still go out to eat (salad for me, dressing on the side please) once or twice a week and rent a few movies without once having the "Do we have enough money in the account right now to cover this?" conversation in earnest.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Ending A Love Affair with the Brawny Man.

I am a paper towel addict. I can admit this. I use them for everything from wiping up coffee splashes to cleaning the counters to washing my kids' faces. I know it's bad. I know it's wasteful. And yet that damn Brawny man with his broad shoulders clad in plaid gets me every time.

So when we ran out of paper towels back around Christmas, onto my shopping list they went. And then I took out the recycle bin and was embarassed at the number of empty paper towel rolls in there. Combine that shame with my promise to not shop unless we need to shop and it's now been a month since we purchased paper towels.

The first week, I looked in the pantry several times hoping in vain that I would find a random roll tucked behind the 12 packs of soda. And then when those were gone (and, holy hell, we didn't buy more soda either!) I had to face the reality of a life without paper towels. It wasn't a conscious decision. In fact, every time we hit the grocery store or Target for diapers I would come home and have a moment of mild panic when I realized, "Crap. I forgot the paper towels again!".

But then a funny thing happened: I learned to deal with it. I bought a 4-pack of these plain white kitchn towels for less than $2 at Target on a clearance endcap. I washed them and hung one under the sink, one from the stove. They end up on my floor by 5:56 a.m. every morning as the kids wake and slowly destroy any sense of order the house had when I went to bed the night before. I freak out a little every time I swipe a coffee spot off the counter with one, what with its whiteness and coffee's stain-ness (Not a word? Whatever.). But I am getting used to a life without paper towels, and it feels like a small victory when we create more trash in this household than should be legal.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Hope and Butterfly Trees.

I started this year with so much hope. And then, in the first 2 weeks it seemed like the damn world was crumbling around me, on my feet and on my head. I have always been sensitive, and sometimes the dark mysteries of the world break me into pieces and I feel hopeless.

What I know is this: bad things happen.

I also know this: life is so beautiful and even when the water's up to your chest threatening to choke you, there is the sun coming from behind the clouds.

I also know: I am cheesy. And I am SO ok with that. I am thankful that I feel pain for things I can't control because it also means I feel deep joy for the good that swirls around me, lifting me from the water's swells.

I feel like I've found some footing. I feel like a new year was carried in on cold January nights and has settled into my bones with the balmy 70 degree days. I feel hope.


Three is a rough year, for me as well as for her. For all of us really. Three brings tantrums and willfullness that frustrate, and yet I flip the coin and see a reflection of myself. It's there, in her. My proudest moment this year so far was the one where my Grandmother looked wistfully from my daughter's face to mine, and proudly proclaimed, "She is little Katie all over again." The world sees Luca through a lens of pretty girl, blonde hair and green eyes like her father, delicate and wise and well-mannered. My Grandma, though, she sees who Luca is. She sees the spirit in those old-soul eyes and she sees me. And nothing could make my chest puff with pride more than the thought that this girl who I love so deeply it sometimes hurts makes my Grandma think of me.

But the food battles and the clothing battles and the bedtime struggle as my brain and mouth speak in unison to tell her, "You need to sleep in your own bed." while my heart and my arms scream a silent protest of, "You belong near me."? Those are killer. I battle the two mothers inside of me and usually listen to the one who feels like she's right. Advice and Shoulds be damned.

Last night she cried and then her wise little mind kicked into overdrive and supplied her with 101 excuses and reasons why she needed to be next to me to sleep. And inside my heart was cracking, but on this night she needed to sleep in her bed and I in mine. And suddenly I realized I was going head-to-head with her and that didn't feel right either.

"Lu, I have the answer," I offered, and she took my bait.
(sniffling) "What, mama?"
"We can sleep in separate spaces but meet in our dreams."

And so together we spun a dream, where we both would be butterflies with pink and purple wings. Over a rainbow we would travel separately, coming together at a big green tree to meet in our dreams. She sprinkled the tree with flowers of purple and pink (you might notice a theme?) and then she stopped and looked sad. When I asked why, she asked how Daddy and Rohan could join us. I suggested they appear in many forms (bees and bears and honeybirds) but none of those would do. In the end, they were gifted wings of flight like ours, butterflies with pink and green and black wings. And so it was decided, that we would meet and she would know it was me because I would bring her a gift.

"Mommy?" she smiled at me. "I want to bring something to you too. And something to Rohan-butterfly and Daddy-butterfly."

"That would be so nice, Luca. We would all be happy."

"But mommy, can I see Piggy there?"

"You can see anyone or anything you want to see, buddy."

"I think Piggy will be there. And that girl. The one who the mean man killed. But they aren't butterflies, Mommy. They are a girl and Piggy, but Piggy can go live with her now."

Choking back hot tears, I asked for more of the story. I guess I wanted to know why she thought that could happen. I guess I still didn't think she could possibly understand.

"They aren't here anymore, but where the butterfly tree is, they can be together. I want Piggy to be with her."

My girl. If she reminds anyone of me, that is the biggest honor I could wish for.


I know that 2010 was a test for many. I know 2011 started off on perhaps the wrong foot. I also know without needing a sure sign that 2011 will be good.


I stepped on the scale today, expecting to be where I was last week after a weekend of carbs and sweets and ass-sitting in a car. I was happily surprised to see I was down 1.5 pounds. It's a small step toward where I want to be, but I am grateful for small steps. I am grateful for daughters with wise old souls and sons with infectious smiles. I am grateful for friends and for challenging work and for love. I am grateful to be married to a man I still call my best friend after nearly 14 years.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Spend Less and Save More, Month 1 Progress.

One of my goals for the year is to cut my spending so we can (a) pay down debt, (b) put more into savings, and (c) have money to put toward other goals, like home improvement and vacations. I'm only 18 days into it, but already I am feeling on top of this one.

It might be considered a sad testament to your lack of money management skills when avoiding Target fun trips for 18 whole days is an achievement. But I'm going to let myself off the hook for my past inability to pay my way out of a paper bag and take the progress as it comes.

I've hit one milestone already, which was to add to the amount we have in savings. We try to pad that account to a certain dollar amount before transferring some off the top to pay down debt. Through our bank accounts we have Keep the Change, which automatically rounds up the dollar amounts we spend each day on debit, and takes the difference between what we spent and the next dollar up and transfers it directly from checking into savings. It's simple and mindless, but it's moving money over into savings almost every day.

Granted, spending less money during the month means less debits, which means smaller monthly transfer amounts. But that's ok, because in addition to using the Keep the Change program, we also have auto transfers twice per month from checking to savings, which means more money moving into savings without me having to think about it at all.

That's key for me: not having to think about it at all. The easiest way for me to save is to pretend the money was never there in the first place, and other than emergencies and paying down debt, we largely ignore our savings account. I know a lot of financial experts would roll their eyes at that mentality, but the bare facts are that we don't have a lot of disposable income, and if I know it's there I won't hesitate to spend it without even thinking. By letting the bank do all the work to transfer the money for me into an account I pretty much ignore, I can pretend the money isn't there and I don't feel tempted to spend money on silly things when it would be better to save.

The other big part of this goal, for me at least, is not spending as much money. I've successfully avoided pitfalls like Target (can I confess how much it KILLS me not to check the Target clearance right now, knowing full well it's packed with good deals?!?!) and packed my lunch almost every day this month. Our grocery bill is going up a bit for sure, but on the flip side I am eating healthier foods and feeling better. Even when we do go out to eat, like we did tonight right before hitting to grocery store to stock our empty shelves and fridge, I am trying to choose a healthy salad over a bread bowl full of brocolli & cheddar soup. It's not easy, but it IS possible, and it will be worth it in the end.

"They" say it takes 3 weeks to create a new habit. If it's true, we're well on our way!

Monday, January 17, 2011


My grandma's family was poor, but back then pretty much everyone was. Born in 1918, she was a triplet but the third of the three was stillborn. In addition to her twin, James, she had a half brother named Walter and two sisters named Amy and Vivian. They lived modestly with each girl owning just one dress. Grandma was raised to believe she was the Sensible One. In those days, a girl's worth in her family was often boiled down to one adjective, and so it was with my Great Grandmother and Great Grandfather, whose 3 daughters were: Smart, Sensible, and Pretty. If her so-called-Smart-One sister's dress was dirty, one of the other girls would forfeit her schooling for the week so the Smart One could borrow her clean dress. Laundry was done by hand only once a week, because more than that would use too much water.

During the Depression, her father was struggling like many others. One day, he came home from trying to find work in a new car, packed the family, and told them they were moving to California. The car, near as any of us can guess, was driven straight off the lot and to their home without actually being purchased.

She says she married my Grandfather because she was 'getting up there in years' and she 'didn't have many options left and no one was knocking on the door'. I say he got lucky. I also don't see her how she sees herself: plain, short, bland, and sensible. I saw her as beautiful with hips that carried strong babies and eyes that saw pain and suffering less often than they saw love and beauty. I saw her hands, which now showcase paper-thin skin, as strong and capable but also as soft and kind as she rubbed my back for hours on end. She wasn't One anything: she was everything.

This weekend, my mom drove me and the kids to L.A. in a just-under-48-hour whirlwind to celebrate my Grandma's 93rd birthday. My mom often laments her mother's memory loss and refusal to wear her hearing aids and stubborness, but I don't see those things. In my eyes, my grandma is a strong, loving matriarch to our family. She is funny, remembers things that most 93 year olds would have long ago forgotten, and loves her family with a fierceness. It was a tiring trip with hours of boring, dark roads and two different hotel rooms where each of us shared a bed with a kid and didn't get much quality sleep. I ate like crap because I had no other options. But it was worth every second of coordinating and driving and in-transit kid entertaining. It was worth it to celebrate her, and to give my kids the opportunity to spend time with her.

Luca with her Grandma. Someday, I will be listening to her wax poetic about how amazing her Grandma is.

Luca showing Baby Rainbow Love something out the hotel window.

Rohan is a bit wary of my Grandma, but Luca loves giving her hugs.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

One Week.

I realized this week that what happened a week ago in Tucson hit me viscerally, perhaps more intensely than seems fitting. I could say it's because I have the tiniest connection to one of the victims, because I do but it was fleeting and I don't think that's the core of why I was hit so hard.

Before Christmas, one street away from us, an 8 month old girl was shaken to death by her dad.

Almost 2 weeks ago, a gunman caused the mall less than 2 miles from my house to be put on lock-down, held hostages in a fast food restaurant, and the surrendered to the dozens of police, FBI, and SWAT Team members who had infiltrated the neighborhood.

And then, there was last week. And this whole week all the media in Arizona is covering is the story. They're covering the details of the gunman's life. The run-down of the day's events. The tragedies and lives lost. And the heroes who stepped up.

I've been sad and mad and just generally somber. And then I opened today's paper, and saw this article, and I was so touched I wanted to share it. I hope next week I can somewhat return to 'normal' and post about things other than this. And in that spirit, I am marking a week's passage by sharing:

Simple bells lift heavy hearts amid tragedy in Tucson

The Arizona Republic

Outside the Safeway scene of so much sorrow, the people of Tucson left us a message on Thursday.

Hundreds of handmade bells, hanging from the paloverde trees and in the bushes and on the shopping-cart racks in the parking lot.

As cleaners in blue jumpsuits with green rubber gloves worked to scrub away the physical traces of last Saturday's tragedy, citizens offered a response to the mental anguish, wounds not so easily washed away.

They hung bells.

It's a tradition of sorts in Tucson. Twice a year, the wind chimes randomly appear around town, dangling from trees and tied onto fences. Ben's Bells, they are called, for a little boy named Ben who died suddenly in his mother's arms on Good Friday 2002. He was 2 years old.

The darkness and the pain that followed . . . well, there aren't any words for what a parent goes through at a time such as that. The healing, for Jeannette Maré and her husband, Dean Packard, began with kindness. Simple acts like a stranger opening a door or lending a shoulder.

"We were walking around looking like ordinary people on the outside when we were just dying on the inside, and anytime anybody would do an act of kindness for us - the smallest little show of connection like eye contact or a smile or being let into traffic or anything - was just kind of miraculously healing," Maré says. "I literally felt like I needed to die, and then somebody would do an act like that and I knew in that moment, at least in that moment, that I could survive."

Maré began making the wind chimes in her backyard pottery studio after Ben's death, fashioning beads and clay ornaments, painting them and lashing them to little brass bells. It was something those who grieved for Ben could do, something that would both honor his memory and help others suffering in ways unseen.

They hung 400 bells around Tucson on the first anniversary of Ben's death, attaching a tag to each one. "Take it home," it says, "hang it and remember to spread kindness."

Since then, the bells have been hung twice a year in Tucson, and in places where tragedy has struck - in New York on the anniversary of 9/11, in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina and in Hermosillo, after a day-care fire killed 44 children. Now, tragedy has struck at home.

All week long, Tucson residents have flocked to the pottery studio on University Boulevard, the one where Ben's Bells are made. It's open year-round to anyone who wants to come and paint and be a part of spreading one simple yet profound message: Be kind.

At dawn Thursday, hundreds spread out across Tucson, hanging the bells - 1,406 of them, all Maré had. They hung them in parks and at schools, on street signs and in desert washes, at University Medical Center and at the Safeway.

"We hang this bell in memory of those who died, to honor all of those who were injured and for all of us who live in and love this community," says the tag, which also carries the message to take the bell home.

All over Tucson, the stories started pouring in from those who found Ben's Bells on Thursday. From a teacher who found one outside her school, from a mourner who spotted one outside a church. From Bernadette, who saw a bell and burst into tears, and from Janet, who came upon one along the Rillito River Park. "The discovery shined a light through the sorrow and defeat which has been surrounding me," she wrote. "Much of that negative energy has floated away today. What a blessing."

There is power in the message sounded by the bells - that it is intentional kindness and small connections, not grand gestures, that build communities and sustain them in times such as these. Something as simple as leaving a bell or finding one can lift a heavy heart and for the moment, in Tucson, that is a start. Maré says her city will never get over what happened here and that, she says, is a good thing.

"It changes you. It becomes part of the fabric of who you are as an individual and the culture of your community. So I hope we don't get over it. I hope that this changes us forever."

Read more:

Read more:

Read more:

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Words are Failing.

This week has been a somber one. I've cried while watching the news, listening to the radio, and reading the many stories and tributes. My heart is so heavy when considering the lives cut short. Not only those of 9 year old Christina and 30 year old Gabe, but also those of the victims who should have been enjoying the warm afternoon sunshine of life. I think of the pain of those families and friends who lost loved ones. I think of the horror felt by the witnesses and the survivors and I hope with all my heart that those who we lost did not have time to know what was happening and died in peace, in the arms of others.

And, oh! The others. Thinking of the bravery of a loving husband who took the fatal shot meant for his wife, the intern whose quick thinking kept the Congresswoman alive, the men and woman who took down the gunman and knocked away his heaviness is gone and I am done. Just done. I turn into a mess, with a lump in my throat and hot tears burning my eyes. I sit in admiration and awe, hoping that in their shoes I could do the same, and wishing we never had to learn the worth of their bravery.

Somber and hopeful. I will watch tonight as those Arizonans (and Americans) lost are remembered with tearful goodbyes. I will watch dignitaries and common people speak about bravery and fear and heroes. I will find the hope in the heaviness.

I will sit in silence and honor those we lost and those who saved and were saved.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011


Oranges. Pears. Bananas. More oranges.

This has been my diet, and while it feels a bit like torture not to be able to slather bread in peanut butter or eat a hunk of extra sharp cheddar cheese while cooking dinner, it also feels really, really good.

I almost forgot how much I enjoy healthy, fresh foods. And as an extension of enjoying the healthy foods I've been eating, I find myself drinking less diet soda and hot chocolate and going for long walks after dinner. We tuck the kids into their red wagon and give them a soft white blanket to snuggle, and away we go down dark neighborhood streets breathing in the crisp air of Arizona's January nights. I'm pulling something around 80 pounds when I pull them around, and yet it feels good to have a little burn in my steps. I'm thinking of the grilled boneless skinless chicken breasts and grilled eggplant I had for dinner and feeling satisfied. Satisfied, even though I didn't finish the pile of fluffy mashed potatoes I'd allowed myself as an indulgence. Satisfied, perhaps because I didn't wish for more when my plate was empty, save for that lonely lump of potato goodness.

I replenish with water and an orange, sweet and juicy and cold from the night air, having been picked as we made our way across our front yard and into the warm house. I am on, and when I'm on like this I am also on top of the world. I feel strong and healthy and solidly grounded in health.

And lighter, by 4 pounds. Which is but a tiny sliver of all I want to be rid of, but a victory no less. My husband asked me tonight what made me get back on track and where I got my focus. I've been here before, and slid down the hill of store bought frosting and into a puddle of whole milk turned mocha with pure Hershey's syrup. I've been here and caved or made excuses or decided that as long as my kids and my husband love me, then who cares.

Who cares? Namely: Me. It might have been slipping back into real work clothes after a little more than 2 weeks of days off and Christmas treats and jammies that stay on all day and into the night. It could have been the desire to possibly have another kid someday without propelling myself to a weight I can't even bear to imagine. Possibly it had something to do with the stack of pictures I printed for Luca's school, chief among which were many of my smiling mug and my many-pounds-smaller body. I have felt heavy in body and soul over the past year or two, and yet the fact that I lead a pretty amazing and full life has kept me where I am. But where I am, within my own self, is a place I don't like.

And so a week into it, I celebrate success with a healthy grilled meal, a small splurge in the form of mashed potatoes and 1/2 a cup of ice cream I shared with an eager little boy. I sat on the floor with my treat, served in an Ikea kids' bowl to make the small scoop look more filling, and he came over with his bear and his blankie clutched tightly to him. If you see him now, you no doubt will see him with these two friends who he greedily holds all day and night. Moving my hand aside, he plopped his heavy warm body into mine and said, "Lap!" and then, pointing to the spoon, smiled that golden smile of his and said, "Tare pease." His 's' is a 't' right now ("Mama ting!" to get a bedtime song from me or "Torry!" when he owes an apology), and it makes my heart skip and I spoon moutfuls of sweet mocha almond fudge to him until, several spoonfuls into it, he stands and says, "All done."

They provide me this lesson every day, and perhaps the greatest gift I have given my body is observing how they eat and taking note. They eat when hungry. They relish the things they love. They have fun. They laugh and giggle through dinner, and then they cross the invisible threshold to satisfied and they push away from the table (or stand up from where they sat in a lap) and say, "All done." They always make suer they stop while they are still enjoying themselves. And so can I.

And I did. And I will continue to, until I am as happy with what I see in pictures as I am with what I feel on the inside. I have made a choice to love and value myself and to do that which makes me feel good. It might mean I am not perfect, and I sneak a small scoop of M&Ms when the mid-afternoon work slump hits. But I am ok with that. I am committed, for both myself and those I love, to making this life a healthy one, and for once I have opened my mind up to this truth: It feels good.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Moment of Silence.


"Dr. Steve Rayle stood watching in disbelief. It had seemed like a stunt, like a prank, but soon there were so many bodies on the ground.

Patricia Maisch heard the first shot, then a pause, then a chain of gunfire, and knew she had a choice. Run and be a target, or drop to the ground and hope for the best.

Joseph Zamudio was inside a nearby store when he heard the shooting. He dropped his packages on the counter and rushed toward the door.

The Saturday morning had begun normally enough for everyone who had made his or her way to the Safeway store on the north edge of Tucson. Head to work. Walk the dogs. Or stop by a public event, where U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords would be standing outside the store talking to constituents.

In an instant, the morning changed.

Outside the store, a lone gunman approached Giffords, raised his arm and shot her in the back of the head.

He turned and fired again, then again, then again.

"Bam, bam, bam, bam, bam, bam," Rayle said Sunday, recounting the attack. "There was no place to run."

The three strangers were thrust together into the chaos."*

There is a villain. There are victims, innocent and helpless against a man I have no doubt will be recognized as a monster. And then, like the bightest of spots in the darkest of hours, there are heroes. True and brave and authentic heroes who acted not out of a desire to be on CNN or be awarded a medal of honor or valor. Heroes who acted to save themselves and those around them, and who no doubt turned one of the most horrific days in Arizona's modern history into a day to remember this: Out of ordinary men and women, there are always heroes.


In this undated photo provided by the Green family, Christina Green, 9, poses for a photo. Green was one of those killed in an attack on U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, D-Ariz., a three-term lawmaker, who was shot in the head.
Christina Taylor Green, age 9

Mavy Stoddard, with husband Dorwan, was injured in the Jan. 8 shooting outside of Tucson. Dorwan, 76, died. Mavy, 75, believes her husband most likely saved her life.
Dorwan Stoddard, age 76 (died physically covering his wife, Mavy to protect her)

Phyllis Schneck, 79, a retiree, died during the shooting at a grocery store outside Tucson.
Phyllis Schneck, age 79

U.S. District Judge John Roll
Honorable Judge John Roll, age 63

In this January 2009 photo provided by the office of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, aide Gabe Zimmerman is seen in front of the U.S. Capitol in Washington. Zimmerman was killed Saturday when a gunman opened fire at a  event with Giffords north of Tucson.
Gabe Zimmerman, age 30

No photo available for Dorothy Morris, age 76


Daniel Hernandez, went to the side of Congresswoman Giffords after she was shot, and is credited with possibly saving her life. I have no word for how beautiful his actions were in the face of chaos.


There are many more who will be recognized in the days and weeks to come. And no doubt countless others whose small acts of kindness and selflessness for others made a difference that day. The emergency responders, the medical staff and surgeons, the helicopter pilots. The police. The paramedics. The thousands of people across the nation sending love and healing and prayers to those injured and those who lost their lives.

And then there is Congresswoman Giffords, a woman who by all accounts is strong, kind, fair, and brave. A Congresswoman who took the time to meet the people she represents and truly cares.

U.S. Representative Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ) is seen in an undated handout photo provided by her Congressional campaign, January 8, 2011. Giffords was hit in a shooting on Saturday at a public event of the Congresswoman's at a Tucson, Arizona grocery store.


Read more:

Saturday, January 8, 2011


I was going to post something else today, and then I checked her blog. And I saw this post. And my heart stopped beating for a minute and I wanted to pick up each of those babies and nuzzle their sweet necks.

So in lieu of my own post about something inane like money or NY resolutions or home renovations, please take a look over there and do what your heart leads you to do for those sweet faces.

If I could, I'd thank Kelle personally grounding me this Saturday morning. And for sharing those faces and names with the world.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Teaming Up Against Me.

On nights like tonight, I think the world is teaming up against me in my best efforts to make some positive change in my own life.

Case in point 1 - Searching through old pictures of Luca to drop off at school tomorrow (the prints were done today and I was SO good and walked right up to the photo lab, paid, and walked out!), my uterus came under seige. Don't believe me? Observe:

I could go on all day like this. Seriously. But I will stop here. I'm just sayin', I'm pretty sure even my husband had sympathy baby fever looking through these. But as much as I want a baby right now, I also know it's not good timing. If we have another, I want another homebirth which means paying about $3-4k out of pocket when all is said and done, since my insurance won't cover it. On top of that, we need to wait until Luca's not in preschool ($$) anymore, I want to get to a comfortable weight before I am pregnant again, and we have financial goals to meet first.

Right? Sigh.

Case in Point 2 - My husband has to coach at a wrestling tournament all tomorrow and Saturday, which means we are on our own. On our own, trying to eat healthy and not spend money for 2 days? Yikes. Can I do it???

Case in Point 3 - I am craving Mocha Almond Fudge ice cream. And there is a nearly full carton in my freezer. Guess I should go to bed to avoid eating it.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011


I had a legit reason to go to the Target by my house after work today. Luca's school does a thing called 'Cubbie of the Week' where each preschooler is honored for a week. They answer a questionnaire, get to choose snacks and free time activities, and pick the weekly movie. They also get to make a board with pictures of themself on it, and here is where I confess I am horrible about printing photos.

TAKING photos? I'm your girl. PRINTING them and making an album? Yeah, not so much.

So with Luca's week looming, we have until this Friday to get pictures 'from birth through preschool' to submit, which meant I had to sift through an obscene number of photo albums on Shutterfly and choose some to print. When I got done I realized the error of my ways, as delivery in 5-7 days was $8, and I need these by, oh, tomorrow? Yeah. So I noticed the 'print in store' option, and next thing you know I'm saving $8 and ordering them at the Target nearest me that has 1 hour photo. And I would have gone to 'my' Target, but then this was happening:

And it was happening less than a mile from 'my' Target. Now, thankfully this was resolved with no injuries and no deaths, but the area of shops all around my house was closed off with police, swat teams, media and more. So I used the next closest Target, submitted the order, and left work to get my kids. My mom and I took the kids out to dinner, and then I headed to pick up my pictures. The photo lab had just closed, but the register girl told me to go do my shopping and she'd pull the pictures for me so I could pay for them and take them home.

I had some shopping to do, though I really needed groceries more. However, since it was a bit after 6 I knew my time clock on the kids' patience was running very low, so I opted to get a few things at Target (dog food, milk, bread, cheese, hot dogs for the kids, cereal, yogurt, oatmeal, diapers) that were necessities and then head up front.

Only to discover: my trip to Target was for naught because it turns out the 1 hour photo option is null and void if you order online, so my photos won't be ready for tomorrow (still on time, but sheesh!).

So, Target won. Sorta. They got $82 of my money, but the only thing that was not purely a 'necessity' was the 15 cent candy kit in the Christmas clearance section. Honestly, only spending 15 unnecessary cents is something I am pretty damn proud of. The kids' clothes, clearance racks, endcaps, and shoes all called and it was hard to walk away and stick to my list, but I did it!


In other news, on the way home Luca was getting goofy and proceeded to tell me that boys are poopy heads and girls have pee on their heads and that her dad and brother are going to wear all brown and 'poopy hats' and we will wear yellow and yellow hats so we can have a peepee-poopoo party.

I can't remember the last time she made me laugh that hard.

Monday, January 3, 2011

I Used to Be Lazy.

Is this a sign of aging? I am nearing in on my next birthday, and it is one that will take me a year further away from 21. Most days I still feel young, and some days I even look at my 2 kids and for a hair of a second I literally forget they are mine and laugh to myself that someone actually left their kids in my ca---wait. They are MINE. I'm a MOM. Holy shit. And it spirals from there until I am prematurely (like, WAY prematurely) worried about bunions and sending my kids to college.

And then lately there is this: I can't just sit and be anymore. TV doesn't hold my attention. Laying in the bathtub zoning out is only good for 12 minutes, tops. Watching my kids play outside is done while picking up toys and pulling weeds and cleaning off the patio and sweeping and trimming the trees. I can sit and read a book or take a nap like a baby, but gone are the days when I could sit and watch mindless TV all day without the dishes or organizing the toys calling.

What the hell? Who is this person?!?

I can only conclude this is a side effect of aging. I am becoming my mother-in-law, my great aunt, and my grandma all wrapped into one. Puttering is their specialty: flitting about the house moving this pile of papers here, then sorting them, then moving them there, then shoving them in a drawer. Baking cookies because it's something to do with their hands. Turning on the news and then not hearing a single thing said the whole broadcast. Rearranging closets.

And honestly? It's a necessary evil because it turns out the diameter of the mess your kids can make grows proprotionately with their age and size (x:y). As soon as you pick up the 492 Mega Blocks they left scattered all over the kitchen and rearrange the toy shelves to make the perfect space for them, you turn just in time to catch them dressing the dog in the clothes you just hung, a pile of socks and shirts and underwear and towels exploded around your bewildered mutt. If I didn't putter around every night and straighten little stacks and pick up the same pile of books eleventybillion times a week, that same bewildered dog would be buried under a pile of toys and clothes and my husband's dirty socks by week's end. Thank god it drives me nuts to come home to a messy house, because that rush of throwing laundry out in a pile and shoving toys into bins and wiping counters is sometimes the only 'cleaning' that happens in a given mon---er, week. A week.

Where it gets to me, though, is my struggle to be still with my kids. I can craft and play and cuddle and chase and recruit them to help me with things around the house which they think are fun and I think need to get done. But I will confess I often have to be dragged away from the book I am reading while watching TV and mixing cookie dough that has to go in the fridge I am in the midst of cleaning. And I hate it. I want to be that mom who comes home, sets down the day when she sets down her bag, and immerses herself fully in her kids. And for the most part I am that mom, but then my eye wanders to a pile of dirty socks behind the recliner and next thing you know I am hauling armloads of freshly laundered whites up the stairs while my husband is sitting on the floor wrestling with our 2 kids.

And despite how that sounds, I actually think my husband is the better parent in that scenario.
And possibly the hardest is this: the battle between my love for time spent with my kids and my desire to have the day be done and be able to go do whatever it is I perceive needs to be done. It was typified for me tonight as I tried to soothe Rohan to sleep. When he gets into bed, he wants me to sit by him until he falls asleep which usually happens blissfully quickly. I kneel by the bed and lay down my head and pretend to sleep to get him to sleep, and all the sudden I'm feeling like I understand all about the struggles of meditation as my entire body is screaming "Let's go downstairs we have things to do!" My mind and my body are fighting a battle and then his little hand sleepily finds my arm and he absently holds on and my heart wins and I stay until his breaths are deep and even.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Spend Less, Month 1.

In January of 2010, I spent over $500 in Starbucks runs and shopping trips.

I share this only to provide a baseline for comparison so that as I go forward with my Fincial resolution I know where I started. And I also share it because when I saw those numbers I was genuinely shocked.

The shopping numbers are mostly for trips to places like Target, where I usually buy 'necessities' like paper towels, diapers, and milk in addition to buying 'fun items' like clothes for myself and hubby and kids, books, and house items. Because I have 2 kids, I usually try to condense shopping trips into as few stores as possible which not only means I might be spending more money than if I shopped around and also means I can't easily separate the 'necessary' from the 'fun'. But going forward I'm hopeful that will come out in the wash. I'm not 100% swearing off Target, but whether it's just necessary items that can't be purchased second hand or a mix of those and some item I don't really need but cave and buy I will count all those purchases to track how I'm doing. Ultimately, the numbers I listed above should be significantly lower in January of 2011 than they were in 2010.

My goals are sort of nebulous, but a conversation last week led me to realize they need to be more solid. I want to pay down debt. I want to spend less. I want to consume less 'stuff' just because I happen to be at Target (or wherever, but let's be honest and just admit Target is my Achille's heel) and a sweater is cute and on the 50% off rack. I want to repurpose, reuse, donate the things we don't use and/or need, and stop buying things on impulse because they seem like a good deal. After all, items on the red tag racks are only a good deal if I need them.

One thing I want to mention is this: the best bargain hunters recognize that thrift isn't always the cheap way to go. I might be able to find shirts for my kids at Goodwill that are cute and in almost-new condition for $2-3 each, but sometimes I can find brand new shirts at places like Target on clearance for less. Since I shop both places regularly, I'm relying on my ability to decipher a good deal (one that second-hand can't beat) from one that only appears to be, and may end up buying new in those cases because in the end it's the better spend.

I mentioned before that my goal is to thrift my way through the year, buying second hand when possible, but what I didn't really mention is that the other piece of that is not buying what we don't need. I have laid some groundrules for myself, which may change here and there, but are going to be the foundation for how I will take on this challenge of self-awareness and restraint:

Ok to Purchase New:
- food
- drinks
- toiletries including diapers and wipes
- make-up
- gifts for birthdays and other celebrations
- coffees for work and with friends on occassion
- some clothes (underwear and socks, I'm looking at you) (special event items too)
- home and car repair and updates (paint, new tires for cars, tools, etc. IF we can't borrow them from someone)

OK to Thrift:
- clothes
- shoes
- household items
- toys
- everything else!

We already got a jump start on this from both sets of parents. My in-laws very kindly purchased a new bed for Rohan, a new mattress for Luca, and bedding for both. But both kids could use nightstands, and I'm not buying either: my mom and my mother in law each handed down old, outdated, super-70s nightstands I'll be fixing up for their rooms. My mom loaned us a small sander, so all we'll need to buy is paint, and there's a chance we have enough leftover in the garage from various projects that we won't even need to buy that.

I'm sure other things are going to come up as I go along, and I'll have to decide how to handle those situations. But I figure if I can cut my spending in the coffee and shopping categories this year by even 50% per month (again, assuming we WILL shop just not all retail prices and sometimes the necessary and the fun will be merged too well to tell which is which) we could save several thousand dollars in a year. And that's just in those categories.

And speaking of nebulous plans and goals as I mentioned above, that money will be added back into my budget as it accrues, with about half going to paying down debts and the other half going to savings and projects around the house that involve and upfront investement.

For January, to make it more concrete, my goal is this: to spend $250 less this January than I did in January 2010.

Wish me luck!

Big Boy Room.

It all started with a crib with the front panel removed, creating a makeshift toddler bed. The bed worked for a time but it was a bit high off the ground even at the lowest mattress setting, and our lbig little guy needed some more room. Every night no less than two times he would roll out of that bed and BOOM onto the floor. Sometimes it woke him and he cried, other times I'd check on him before I went to bed and, in the darkened room illuminated only by the guest bathroom light from across the hall, finally spot him behind the door or under the crib or, once, half on top of the train table.

Our crib converts to a bed, but all that really meant was that we had a headboard. We would still need to buy a frame, mattress, and box springs. Mentioning this to my mother-in-law resulted in 4 hours of bed shopping on the day after Christmas, and this beauty getting delivered to our house while we were out of town on Thursday:

I'm sort of loving how Darrick is scratching his head in this picture. We were BOTH scratching our heads since the room was overcrowded and needed some revising. I don't have a good before picture, but when you walked into the room, there was a 2 door closet to your right, a crib straight ahead and an unused changing table to the left of the crib. The wall across from the wall of closets has a window in the center, and a train table was below that. The wall which the door is on is across from the wall where the crib was, and had a 5-drawer dresser and a 4-drawer dresser with a laundry hamper between them.

It was crowded and not too functional. And it was about to change. Because I love to reorganize rooms, here are some pictures of how it looks now. I'd like to repaint the walls and get some art in there at some point, and there will be a bedside table next to the lower bunk as well. The bed came with a ladder, but it's not attached unless we're in there supervising. I also would like a little area rug for the center of the room, mainly because the carpet has some stains and until we can afford to replace it I'd like to cover them. But, in all its glory (and complete with a super proud boy as tour guide) I present the Big Boy Room!

The view when you walk in. The top bunk needs sheets, and I'm not in love with the leaf/windsail thing up there, but it works for now).

Next to the bed is the 4-drawer dresser (my mother-in-law's dad made both dressers by hand when his own grandkids were born) which stores mostly sheets, mattress covers, and extra linens. We also need new curtains.

Picasso's breastfeeding print might not fit as well in a big boy room as it did in a nursery, but it's staying there until I figure out what else I want to do with it, and what else belongs in its spot.The 5-drawer dresser was moved into the corner further, and the train table was moved away from the window and against this wall, which is directly to your left when you walk in. On the dresser is a felt rectangle with star cut outs and internal lighting, which makes a really cute lamp for the room. The picture above it is by Canyon Photography, of sweet Rohan as a newborn.

One more view of the bed and the dresser beside it.

I'm really happy with how it's shaping up in there. It's not 'done' but it's looking good...and very grown up!


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