Monday, November 28, 2011

What We Teach Our Kids.

We met my family for 'brunch' on Sunday at a cute little restaurant in Gilbert. Over delicious food, we wished my oldest brother a happy birthday and talked about the upcoming holidays. Driving home, I skipped the freeway in favor of streets that take us by big houses and huge green yards dotted with horses and herding dogs.

Soon enough, the suburban splendor gives way to a pocket of town between the meal and home where you're more likely to see big families pushing a stroller and dragging 3 little ones down the road, each of them clutching a few bags from the grocery store. Doing their part to get the food home without a car. People hanging around outside convenience stores in a way that's completely benign but instills a small flutter of caution in my belly if the store they are haunting is one where I need to stop for gas.

We sat at a red light talking about our plans for the rest of the day, when suddenly my husband asked why I thought that big white car was stopped at such a funny angle, halfway in the center lane used for left turns, one turn signal appearing to blink but showing them turning the opposite direction from that which the car's nose was pointed. My gut kicked in and I answered, "Who knows." and looked up at the red light, waiting for it to change.

"I think they need help," my husband answered. And so, as the light turned I flipped on my blinker to get over to the right lane and turn onto the road behind the car, but someone was in my way. Instead I decided at the last minute to go straight and make a right into the convenience store's parking lot. My husband was compelled to go see why the car was stopped where it was, hastily blocking half a lane of traffic. I'm not as good a citizen as he is and would have driven on, but the truth of my husband is this: you never doubt that you're safe when he's around. It's not just the fact he's bigger than most other men. It's not even his street smarts from growing up in one of the worst parts of the Valley. It's just that I always assume that his knack for talking to people and making them feel instantly safe with him around will transfer to strangers. Even strangers in dodgy cars in dodgy neighborhoods.

Just as I parked the car, a big guy - bigger than my husband - stepped out of its driver side door and went around back to begin leaning his body against the rear fender. Not thinking twice, my husband had his door open before our car was in park and was darting across 2 empty lanes to help. I watched him as he leaned into the trunk as well and his whole lower body hunkered down to move the car forward slowly on sleepy wheels. Within a few seconds, they were crossing the road and the big man was jumping in the front seat to steer the car into the lot where we were parked.

"What's daddy doin', mama?" asked Rohan in back.
"Don't worry, buddy," Luca answered before I could, "he's helping that man with the big car. It's the right thing to do, you know."

A lump sat in my throat as I smiled and caught her eyes in my rearview mirror. I nodded in agreement.

Seconds later, Darrick was pulling open the passenger door. "He ran out of gas," he told me. "Oh," I stupidly answered. My brain wasn't connecting what he was saying, so he did the work for me. "Right over there, on that corner...that station has gas and this one doesn't."

We turned out and made our way to the convenience store across the street. He grabbed a fistful of dollar bills and went inside. I watched him in my car's side mirror as he disappeared through sliding doors and reappeared with a gallon jug of water. Stopping by some plants, he emptied the whole thing and then came to the pump. Three dollars later, the gallon jug was nearly full and we left the parking lot to go back over to the man with the big white car.

I pulled intot he spot right next to him, all 4 of our windows down because the kids were curious and wanted to hear what was happening. "You came back." said the man, astonished and grateful.

I reached behind my seat and pulled out an empty water bottle. With a pocket knife, the man cut out the base of the bottle and used it as a funnel to pour a gallon of gas into his car. Darrick talked to him as he did so, in a voice I couldn't really hear. And anyhow, even if I'd been able to properly listen in, The Grinch was on the radio and the kids were demanding that I turn up the volume.

Getting back into the car, Darrick told me the man had thanked him. He worked just down the street at a restaurant as a chef and had worked an unusual early morning shift to make some extra holiday cash. He thought he had enough gas to make it the three miles home, but obviously he'd been wrong. He turned toward the convenience store to get gas, forgetting that it was the one across the street that had gas pumps. He had offered Darrick money as a thank you. Darrick turned it down. He offered us a free dinner the next night at his restaurant, and Darrick said we'd try to make it.

He thanked us profusely. I put my hand on my husband's arm as we drove away, told him he did a good thing.

"Nah. He needed help. We've all been there. It's the right thing to do, you know," he replied, as Luca caught my eye in the mirror and smiled.

Sunday, November 27, 2011


I started week 3 of C25k tonight. This week is a 5 minute walk, 90 seconds each of walking and running, 3 minutes each of walking and running, repeat both intervals, then cool down. I was pleasantly surprised to find that the 90-second  runs were not hard at all. Last week I struggled quite a bit with those runs and with pain in my shins and calves after they were done. I expected tonight to be much worse since the 90-second runs were now the short ones, not the long ones. But it really was not as difficult as I'd feared. The 3 minute runs were pretty manageable too, though they did seem to take forever! I couldn't believe how much ground I covered in 3 minutes, which made it feel like I had run much longer.

I know this is a tough time of year to start this kind of program because I keep hoping the running 3-4 nights a week will make some weight start to melt off me, and it's just not happening yet. I know I need to try to look on the bright side, which is that I didn't gain anything over 4 days off work and Thanksgiving food galore. But it's hard not to get discouraged that the scale it not yet moving. I'm trying to be optimistic and believe that in the next week or two it will happen. I can already feel some difference in my legs - most specifically my calves - so I'm believing it will show everywhere soon.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

The Finishing.

After my last post, about the Thankful Wall, the unfinished interior trim on our french door was really driving me nuts. So when my mother-in-law came by to say hi and asked about it, I immediately took her up on her offer to help us finish the interior and exterior.

When we installed the door over the summer, we measured the interior dimensions of the door opening and the exterior and counted our lucky stars that the doors sold at Home Depot were the same size. We had installed french doors in our old house, so we figured we had this down. Home Depot offers installation, but the doors were $400 and so was installation, and we just couldn't justify spending the same to have someone install the doors as we did to buy them in the first place.

We'll call that our second mistake. The first was one we wouldn't uncover until we were a few hours into demolition of the old doors and installation of the new ones.

Anyhow, we had my mom help us haul the doors home on the bed of her pickup truck, and when we were ready we first had to remove the old sliders. They had been installed when the home was built, and while popping out the doors themselves was easy and pulling down the vertical blinds on the inside was amazingly gratifying, the metal frame itself was a whole other issue. This is where we started to suspect maybe we'd made our first mistake: measuring. Because as we pulled the frame away from the wall with a crowbar, we discovered that the door had apparently been installed before the exterior wall had been completely finished, and while we could pull the frame out of the wall there was a piece of drywall overlapping the opening. So when we had finally prepped ourselves to pop the doors into place (shims at the ready, door caulking prepped, window and door seal glue spread out and ready to grip to the kickplate), we were disappointed to discover that the french doors wouldn't fit. They were sized for the same width as the sliders, but the drywall and stucco edge was blocking the door from sliding into place.

About an hour later, after using various tools to cut away at the drywall and stucco (which, p.s., had a layer of chicken wire between them), we finally had enough space to get the doors into place. But we were left with a very messy exterior and a gap between the top of the frame and the doorway. That gap was easily filled with a piece of wood cut to size and foam used to fill in the gaps, but by then we'd lost steam and figured we'd fix the finishing issues later.

That was in July.

So last night, we hit Home Depot again for some trim and door caulking. The interior was the easy part, with just a trim piece that is 1 5/8" nailed in with finishing nails and some caulk to fill in the gaps between the top of that board and the doorframe. The exterior was a little trickier, however. At the time we put in the door, we'd chosen to limit our sawing to one side of the door rather than going from left to right and back again. As a result, the gaps and exposed drywall/stucco edges were uneven from the left side to the right. We started with the top, filling the top edge out until it was flush with the door by nailing in 3 small boards (1" x 3/4"), then adding a piece identical to the trim piece we'd used on the inside. The sides required some quarter rounds placed flush against the door and caulking to fill them out. Then my mother-in-law did a light coat of paint over all of it. We'll have to go back on the exterior with colors that match the house's colors, but it's already so much better!

Interior. We added the curtain rod too, so now we just need to agree on curtains.

 Close up. Needs some touch-ups still, but much better already.

The exterior. MUCH improved.

Close up of the exterior. This is actually MUCh improved from how it was before but still in need of some finessing. Where the trim piece is above was all exposed wood, and where the quarter round is on the side was exposed drywall, stucco, and chicken wire. 

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Thankful Wall.

Last year, we had the Thankful Tree. This year, I wanted to do something like that again, but different. And what better place to do it than surrounding the new french doors we installed this summer?

Nevermind this totally highlights the fact we need to finish the interior door frames. I am loving having fall all over that wall.

Also, while you're excusing my door frames, pleae also ignore the mess. I DO live with 2 little kids and a husband.

The process is simple. I free-form cut leaves out of red, orange, yellow, and brown construction paper and try to get at least one member of the household to tell me what they are thankful for each day. It gets written down, attributed, dated, and taped to the wall. Some of my favorites include Luca's proclamation that she is thankful for her 'buttocks' and 'Santa' and Rohan's proclamation of thanks for 'pretty awesome'. I can only assume he's being thankful for his own astounding level of awesome with that one. It's sometimes a challenge to get a 'thankful' from the kids each day. Luca sort of gets it, partly because she remembers doing this last year and partly because they do 'thankful' activities all of November in preschool. Mo, on the other hand, stares at you like you just spouted a second nose if you ask him to tell you what he is thankful for. Instead, I ask him what makes him happy or what/who he loves.

But my favorite leaf, hands-down? This little red guy who lost his stem and won Luca's favor. I asked what she was thankful for, and she grabbed the leaf and said she'd write it herself thankyouverymuch. She even added her name (though I cheated and did the date for her, since dates are still a very abstract concept for her):

And just because I am in love with how this looks, another angle on the whole wall of thanks:

Monday, November 21, 2011

Weak, Too.

Tonight I started Week 2 of training for January's 5K. Technically, I was supposed to start last night, but my husband wanted to take me to see Breaking Dawn. And when one's husband offers to take one to see a decidedly teenie-bopper chick flick when one and her husband are decidedly NOT teenagers, one must agree. So i skipped night 1 of training last night and did it tonight instead.

Week 1 was a 5 minute walk, then 8 intervals of 60 seconds of jogging followed by 90 seconds of running, then 5 more minutes of walking. By the end of the week, I was definitely comfortable witht hat routine and in no rush to change it up at all. So I was not looking forward to this week, which shifted my routine to 5 minutes of walking, 6 intervals of 90 seconds running and 2 minutes walking, and another 5 minutes of walking.

It wasn't fast. It wasn't easy. It sure as hell was NOT graceful. But I did it.

I think, however, I may be the only poor soul in the world who could GAIN 3 pounds after a week of cooking healthy meals at home and starting a running routine.

Either way. I'm moving forward.

Thursday, November 17, 2011


The reason I am training using Couch to 5k? The Color Run! Not much could get me off my ass faster than the idea of being pelted by soft powder in rainbow hues. That's pretty much my dream come true. And to do it on my birthday, joined by friends? Perfection.

With week 1 of training over, however, I've realized I have really far to go. The good news is I'm able to complete the training using this podcast. it's a 5 minute brisk walk for warm-up, then alternating 60 seconds of running with 90 seconds of brisk walking 8 times, then 5 more minutes of walking to cool down. I love that I just hit play and the music starts while someone orders me around and tells me when to do what. It's so mindless, which is exactly what I need. If I had to use a stopwatch or a pedometer or any other tool, I'd be a lost cause.

My body, however, hurts. It's mainly my feet, which could probably use some new shoes fitted to my particular needs. But other than the pain, I am really finding myself looking forward to moving on to the next week. The first week definitely challenged me and pushed me out of my comfort zone, so I expect the second week is going to majorly suck ass. But I'm ready!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011


2011. I knew from the start it was going to be a pisser. Shooting in Tucson. Vomiting up everything but my pancreas on my birthday. An IRS letter telling us we owed over $500 in unpaid taxes we didn't know we'd missed paying to kick off summer break. Not to mention hurricanes, tornadoes, and tsunamis worldwide. I think 2011 had it in not just for me, but for people all over the world.

But 2012? I predict a banner year. Already, the tide has started to shift for not only my little family, but several people I know and love. And I couldn't be MORE excited to usher in a new year very, very soon.

To kick it off right, I'm going to celebrate my birthday next year by completing my first 5k. Now, please not, I DO NOT run. As in, hate it. As in, would rather do pretty much ANY other type of exercise. As in...guuuuh. But I've always wanted to be the kind of girl who DOES run, so in honor of that dream I agreed to joining a team when my friend invited me. She promised I didn't HAVE to run it, but could walk part or all if I wanted, but I'm always up for a challenge. So run it I will. I began my training this week, and I'm optimistic and also scared entirely shitless about the prospect of completing the training and getting my big old butt out there on my birthday to run. But what has really inspired me, more than the idea of finally getting myself motivated to run a 5k and more than getting older and wanting to accomplish this one little thing to ring in a new year of life, is how the people around me have rallied. My friend invited me to join her team. And when I told some co-workers about it, they decided to run it too. When I told them I'm doing Couch to 5K for training, they agreed to do it at the same time, so we could compare notes and commiserate. My husband is cheering me on and encouraging me to train.

And then, there was the first night of training. We got to the park with the plan being I would run to the podcast while my husband took the kids to the playground, then we'd meet and eat our picnic dinner. As I settled in to my warm-up walk, I realized that (a) I'd somehow deleted the podcast AND all the music except one album and (b) the battery on the iPod was almost dead. Not willing to give up, I put the one album (thankfully one I enjoy) on shuffle and used the iPod stopwatch to time my walking and running intervals. And then my iPod battery died, just as I was about to run past 2 teenaged girls. In the sudden silence, I heard my labored breathing and my loud foot falls as I jogged past them. And I also heard them. I couldn't pick up exactly what they said, but I can only imagine it was something in the vein of "Hope that fat chick doesn't die before she gets back to her car." Or perhaps, "Look at her big old ass jiggling while she tries to run." Or even,  - - -

But then I decided to change my outlook. My ass isn't bouncing, it's clapping in appreciation of my efforts. This body made two beautiful children and sustained them well beyond the womb. It's not perfect at all, but in 10 or 15 years those cute teenage girls will probably look in the mirror and see a reflection more like mine than like the one they see today.

I finished that night's training and moved on to day two. I have one day left and then :poof: like that I am on to week 2. And before I know it, we will be celebrating Thanksgiving, then Christmas, then the new year, our anniversary...and then the run. And I am excited to start 2012 in that way.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

I Guess It Makes Sense?

The weather has taken a turn for the colder, and this weekend in particular was pretty cool for Arizona. We decided to meet my mom at the train park near our house for dinner tonight. Midway through eating, Mo announced he needed to pee, and Luca wanted to go too. We walked toward the bathroom, and on the side closest us was the men's room door.

"Are we going into the men's room?" Luca asked.
"No way! I'm not a man. We're going into the women's!" I replied.
"Oh, why? Because the boys' bathroom is stinky?"
"I suppose it might be."
"Right. Because there are a lot of penises and toots in there, right?"

I love this kid so much.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

We Tricked. We Treated. And Now, It's A Downhill Run To Thankful.

Halloween this year could easily be put into the 'extra fun' category. We had just the right mix of excitement over the festivities and simple joy that comes with kids so little that EVERYthing about the holidays is SO MUCH FUN!

As far as I know, Rohan has never watched Super Man cartoons, so imagine my surprise when I asked what he wanted to be for Halloween and his answer was an emphatic "Supeeer Man!". Fortunately, after looking at pictures online, Luca became excited about the idea of being Super Girl, and my mom offered to make their costumes.

Other than the shirts, which were purchased at the store for less than it would have cost her to make something similar, she made their entire costumes, down to the fake boots. In a word? Awesome.

They were a hit in the neighborhood and got SO MUCH candy it's almost criminal. Already I squirreled some away to work and have plans to make even more of it disappear.

But before Trick or Treating, there was a preschool party for a certain honey bee:

Yeah, that's Luca again. Nothing says 'diva 4 year old' like a wardrobe change between the party and the outing. We were worried she'd mess up her Super Girl costume, so we took her to Goodwill to get her a witch costume (her request), but instead she fell in LOVE with this bee hoodie. For under $8, we got her that and the black and gold tutu, and she was set. I had plans to get a yellow shirt and put black stripes on it because a hoodie? in Arizona? on Halloween? Not weather appropriate. It was a high of 91 yesterday afternoon. But life got in the way, and I didn't get her the shirt. Luckily, the teachers at her school have all the kids put on 'normal' clothes after they trick or treat on campus, so we didn't have to worry after all. And Daddy dressed as the Grim Reaper (I really need to improve my Halloween make-up skills...he looks sad, not scary!) which was pretty awesome as well.

All in all, Halloween was great, and the kids already can't wait for next year! Tonight as I was getting him ready for bed, Rohan said, "You just wead da book and den we go walk and say "TRICK OR TREAT!" and den bed?" Optimistic little dude. Love him.

Now we are facing down the barrel of a LOT of holiday prep work and fun. We made a decision to pay off 2 credit lines we have open before year's end, as both have interest-free payments until January 1 (they were for major dental work I needed and insurance barely covered), which means money will be tight for presents this year. We're ok with that. We have SO MUCH already, and I am planning on making a few gifts and keeping it simple for the kids. And I confess I am very much looking forward to kissing 2011 goodbye! We've had a hard run of it in many ways, and January is shaping up in such a way that I think a lot of the things we've been stressed over will be resolved. In addition to paying off 2 credit lines, we had one of those life events that knocks the wind out of you when it happens but ends up being for the best recently. Our beloved day care provider, who watched Luca for 3 years and has watched Mo since he was 4 months old is moving a few hours north of us in mid-November. We were sad and stressed and just anxious when we found out, until my mom insisted we let her take over Mo duties through May when Darrick starts his summer break. This is perfect, because it means we don't have to search for a new provider for the next 6-ish months and after summer break he'll move to preschool and Luca will be in kindergarten. It's also perfect because it's going to mean several hundred more dollars in our pockets every month. Add that to getting rid of 2 credit payments a month, and we're finally going to be seeing a change in our financial situation for the positive.

With all this optimism abounding, I am VERY MUCH looking forward to taking some time off around the holidays to be with my family and to keeping things simple and spending this holiday season witha  focus on building traditions rather than building piles of stuff.

Last year, when November came and it was time to pack away the Halloween in favor of pretending it's winter, we created a Thankful Tree. I think we'll do something similar this year and I'm excited to involve both kids.

Welcome sweet November!!


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