Wednesday, September 30, 2009
Tuesday, September 29, 2009
Though I certainly have learned to love the coming of the school year for reasons obvious to any parent, not everything about it is good. The stress of getting everything done and turned in to wherever it needs to be on time. The juggling of those precious hours after school and wondering how we are going to get to all the places we need to. School politics and drama. Nagging about homework.
School brings some even more unwelcome things. Germs. Lots and lots of germs. By the time the kids have been in school for four or five weeks, our house is saturated with them. In the last week alone, we've had to contend with coughs, fevers, pink eye and an apparent case of H1N1. I can't be certain as to the last one though, since the clinics in town here are out of the tests for it. It seems many other families here are fighting germs too.
We do teach kids to share. I just wish they didn't always listen.
Monday, September 28, 2009
I figured that he would whine more. I figured that he'd start asking me why we were doing all this. Want to know what the point was. I fully anticipated long, leisurely breaks to be taken. I waited for the protests to begin. The refusal to move something. Never happened. And then I figured out why. The TV.
Back in San Diego, we got a big screen TV. Clearly it was not a purchase I was involved with. After the giant TV came along, we had to get a new entertainment center. Of course we needed to. It only made sense. He spent a ridiculous amount of time and energy working on the man cave, to get it just right.
When we moved to Colorado, the new house had a built-in entertainment center in the family room, and the nook for the TV was intended for a normal sized TV. There wasn't room to put the big screen in there, and I refused to let him take up an entire corner of the room just for the TV.
Begrudgingly, he agreed to put the TV upstairs in the bonus room. The movers weren't real happy with that decision since they had to haul it up there. The entertainment center was put in the office and turned into bookcases for the desk. And Tom was a little sad.
The room upstairs, over time, became multi-purpose. It was the guest room, the play room and the room with the big TV. Fast forward to this summer and the obvious need to separate the girls. And the need for that bonus room to be converted into a bedroom. The TV had to come out. And it had to go somewhere.
Tom tried to get me to agree to put it in the family room, in the place I had always been opposed to. He knew that it wasn't a battle worth fighting because he would inevitably lose, so he gave up pretty quickly. I started measuring furniture and wall space and then I did it. I told him what my plan was. I asked him if he could move the cable. His eyes lit up. The formal living room. It was a wasted space, since we never really used it anyway. And it would work.
The entertainment center that had been converted into something else was moved and transformed, magically, back into an entertainment center. The big TV was escorted down the stairs, and cables were fished through the floor. The crowing jewel, the cushy recliner, completed the move. And it was back. The man cave had been reconstructed.
And I realized why my husband was so willing to help me. He was getting something out of the deal too. 42 inches of high definition happiness, to be fully enjoyed only while reclining with a beer. The kids got their own rooms again, and Tom got his happy place back. All that work ended with a handsome reward for him. Now if he could just find that remote...
Sunday, September 27, 2009
When we first got married, we lived in an apartment. And apartment dwellers, by and large, are a transient population. People don't stay in one place for long. And with good reason. Our first apartment was terrible. It was about 600 square feet, had mold problems and no air conditioning. We were pretty happy when we moved out of there. We hadn't really formed any bonds with the people around us, mostly we just passed them in the hall and said hi.
In the condo, things were a little different. Being on the middle floor of a three story building, we got to know a lot about the people living above and below us. Sometimes a little too much. The gay couple above us was awesome. They were quiet and kind, they indulged us when we brought a five month old Aidan out trick or treating for the first time and were grateful for cookies at Christmas. Next door to them was a young military family. We spent hours talking about the challenges of having a new baby. We shared meals and playtime. It was nice. Until one day he got orders, and they were gone.
The condo downstairs from us was occupied by two families in the time that we lived there. If I could give one word of advice regarding neighbors, it is this: don't wish for people that bother you to move out, someone worse could move in next. That's what happened. The first family there was loud. Incredibly loud. They had two young boys, and everything that family did was high pitched and loud. They cooked on their balcony late at night, and the scent of some of the food was horrendous. When they decided to sell, we were glad. Until the new people moved in. Then we suddenly missed the previous owners.
The second family was worse. Much worse. It was a married couple with a teenage son. They smoked, and the smoke came right in our windows. Since we didn't have air conditioning, we had no choice but to leave them open. They fought. They slammed doors. They threw things. They left trash everywhere. And they had a large dog on their patio, and they never ever cleaned up after him. We cringed when it came time to sell our place. We were very much afraid that potential buyers would be scared off if they happened to be home during a showing. The condo fell out of escrow twice, and I can't help but wonder if that might have had something to do with it. Finally, the third buyer closed and we left. We did feel pretty bad about the situation, leaving the new buyers to deal with them. But we were glad that we didn't have to anymore.
When we bought our house, we bought it for a few reasons. It was a complete fixer upper if ever there was one, but it had a certain charm about it. And it was three houses from a fantastic park and around the block from an elementary school. Shortly after moving in, we realized that it had even more to offer. We had some amazing neighbors. The kind of neighbors that set up huge Halloween displays. The kind of neighbors that you can sit in a garage with and talk about nothing for hours. The kind of neighbors that always had a cold beer waiting for you. The kind of neighbors that you wouldn't hesitate to ask for things. The kind of neighbors that you still talk to years after leaving. The woman who lovingly hand stitched a quilt when Ally was born. The elderly woman who always invited us in for a chat, and never winced at the kids touching her things. The kind of people that make you never want to leave. Those were some great neighbors. Whenever there is a house up for sale there, we get a phone call. When are we coming back?
When we first moved to Colorado, we rented a house on the other end of town for a few months. Knowing that it was a temporary place, we didn't form many bonds there. We were overwhelmed with moving, three kids, new schools and a new area. And the people around us, for the most part, weren't really the people you would want to hang out with. We had one neighbor with a little boy a year older than Aidan, but we only talked to them occasionally. It was fine though, that wasn't where we were planning to stay for any length of time anyway.
When we moved into the house we have now, it was different. A new neighborhood. New people. New families. Over the years, more and more families have moved in. And thankfully, some have moved out. The ones that you aren't sad to see go. I joke that our neighbors must hate us. Between having four kids, two dogs and enough outdoor toys to outfit a daycare center, we are just loud. And the vast majority of homeowners in this neighborhood don't have young kids. I hope that we don't drive them too crazy.
Though it is far different from the neighborhood we lived in back in San Diego, there are some similarities. We have those friends now that we can sit and drink beer with, talking about nothing for hours. We have unspoken competitions for who has the best holiday decorations, and who can get them up sooner. We have had bags of backyard vegetables given to us by neighbors, those who are better gardeners than I am. We are surrounded by kids that our kids love to play with.
It's not all good here in the neighborhood though. Not everyone is nice. Not all the neighbors are understanding. There have been conflicts. And there are the houses that make me cringe. The cars that I hate to see driving past. There are even some that we don't make eye contact with and have forbidden the kids from talking to. They are the neighbors that I wish would just leave, though I know better than to think that the next buyer would be better. We've made that mistake before.
Neighbors are just part of life. Love them or hate them, you don't get to choose them. Try to play nice, everyone.
Saturday, September 26, 2009
My ticker keeps a running tab on the time I have spent fully enthralled in the physical joy of motherhood. The time I have spent either pregnant or nursing. And the time I have spent doing both. Minus about 3 weeks in 2007, it's been a constant in my life for the past 9 years. I hit that milestone yesterday. It's been a long time since I was the only person in my body.
When you start to do the math for things like this, it's a bit shocking. 9 years. That is a long time. A really long time. I think of all the times I have been unable to go somewhere or do something because a baby needed me. All the baseball and football games I missed. The concerts I had a ticket to but never saw. The trips canceled. The drinks skipped.
Sure, I would have liked to have seen that U2 concert. I would have loved to see the last Padres opening day we lived in San Diego for. The Broncos made the playoffs and I spent hours on the computer and on the phone to get tickets. We ended up selling my ticket, since I didn't get to use it. The baby at home back then wouldn't take a bottle.
I have spent endless nights lying on one side whether out of necessity from a pregnant belly or out of convenience to nurse a baby. My arms have fallen asleep, my neck has been sore more times than I could count from lying in the same position for too long.
9 years is a long time. I've missed out on a lot over the years. But what I have been doing instead is better. Much better. I have nourished and loved and rocked and fed. I have cuddled and snuggled. I have watched my babies grow. I have helped my babies grow. I have smelled the sweet scent of a baby's breath. I have cherished the knees and elbows of a child, whether they were nudging me from the inside or beside me.
Motherhood isn't about what you don't get to do. It isn't about the sacrifices that you make. The things you give up. The places you don't get to go. Motherhood is about what you are doing. It's the growing and nurturing of a miracle. Nothing else could ever top that. I've been doing it for 9 years and counting...
Friday, September 25, 2009
So, for today, I'll give you two recipes. The first was the one that I made for that friend of mine, the one who only needs me to do just this one thing. And the one that would always do just this one thing for me. And I love her for that. The second recipe is for the second dinner I made last night, the one the kids requested. Both are good, both are easy, and both are perfect dinners for those cool Fall nights.
Italian Crockpot Chicken
- 1 1/2 pound of boneless, skinless chicken
- 1 container of fresh mushrooms, washed and sliced
- 2 cans stewed tomatoes (do not drain)
- 1 can tomato paste
- corn starch
- clove of garlic, chopped
Put the mushrooms and chicken in the crockpot. In a bowl, combine the tomatoes and tomato paste with 1 tsp corn starch, 1/2 tsp oregano, 1/2 tsp basil, garlic, and a pinch of salt and pepper. (You can substitute an italian seasoning blend - if you do, use about 2 tsp) Pour mixture over chicken and set crockpot to high for 4 hours or low for 8. Don't open the lid until ready, so you don't lose the moisture.
Serve with cooked pasta and garlic bread.
Fancy Macaroni & Cheese
- Box of elbow macaroni, cooked and drained
- 1/2 small onion, finely diced
- 1/2 cup butter
- 1/2 cup milk
- 12 slices american cheese, cut into pieces
- 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
- salt and pepper
- bread crumbs
Saute onion in butter until clear. Add milk and cheese a little at a time. Reduce heat and melt all cheese together. Add salt and pepper to taste. Mix cheese sauce with pasta, pour into 9x13 casserole dish. Sprinkle top with bread crumbs and extra shredded cheese. Bake at 350 for 15 minutes. This is the dinner the kids request on their birthdays.
Thursday, September 24, 2009
Last night, Tom's brother Tim was here. He is in the Air Force and stationed in Nevada, when he's not deployed, that is. He came in for a very brief visit, and we really only had a few hours with him last night. All the big boys are going to the Great American Beer Festival tonight, and I'm sure they are going to have a good time. They don't get together nearly often enough, the four of them. I'm hoping that it becomes an annual ritual.
Since Tim was only here one night, I took a bit of a risk with a new recipe. I knew I wanted to make something warm and filling, something that screamed fall and offered him a welcoming hug. I decided to make beef stew, but I had to change it up a little. This isn't the beef stew you might be accustomed to. The ingredients aren't the ones traditionally found in it. No carrots. No potatoes. Not even beef stock. And when you see the recipe, be prepared to make a face. It doesn't really sound like the flavors would go together well. You're just going to have to trust me on this one.
It takes some time, but it's well worth the effort.
Strange Brew Beef Stew
- 3 pounds beef stew meat
- 32 oz chicken stock
- Large can of pears (29 oz), chopped, juice reserved
- vegetable oil
- 2 medium onions, diced
- 2 sweet potatoes, peeled and cubed
- 1/4 cup golden raisins
- half a stick of butter
- lemon zest
- bay leaf
- ground cloves
- dried thyme
Instructions - takes approximately 2 1/2 hours start to finish
- In a large pot, brown beef stew meat in a little vegetable oil. I recommend doing it in a couple batches. Set aside.
- Add butter to the pot and onions. Saute until onions are clear.
- Remove from heat and add the following: 1 tbsp ketchup, 2 tsp salt, 1 tsp lemon zest, 1/2 tsp thyme, 1/2 tsp pepper, 1/4 tsp cinnamon and a pinch of ground cloves. Stir together, then add 1/3 cup flour.
- Add chicken broth, a little at a time and stir to combine. Add pear juice.
- Add one bay leaf and beef to pot, bring to a boil. Reduce, cover and simmer for one hour.
- Add sweet potatoes, cover and simmer for 45 minutes.
- Add chopped pears and golden raisins.
- Heat through. Remove bay leaf and serve.
Wednesday, September 23, 2009
This one is for cookies. But not just any cookies. These are little orange clouds of joy. They are soft and melt in your mouth. They are just simply delicious. Ashley asked me last night if we can make these for Santa this year. I'm guessing that means she likes them too.
Pumpkin Divine Cookies
- 8 oz softened cream cheese
- 2 eggs
- 1 1/2 cups packed brown sugar
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1 cup canned pumpkin
- 1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
- 3 1/2 cups flour
- 1 1/2 tsp pumpkin pie spice
- 1 tsp baking soda
- 1 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp baking powder
Beat cream cheese and sugars, add eggs one at a time, then the pumpkin and vanilla. Combine dry ingredients, then add and mix thoroughly. Drop by rounded teaspoonfulls and bake at 350 for 10-12 minutes.
- 4 cups powdered sugar
- 1/3 cup melted butter
- 2 tsp vanilla extract
- 3-4 tbsp boiling water
Combine, adding water a little at a time until desired consistency. Frosting will set fairly quickly as it cools. Frost cooled cookies. Then try not to eat all of them. Happy Baking!
Tuesday, September 22, 2009
Perhaps one of the things I love the most about the Fall is the food. I love to make it. Comfort food. Crock pots. Soups. Chili. Warmth. Love.
Here is one of my most time-tested recipes. If you're ever in need of something that warms you from within, that fills your belly with comfort, this is it. Enjoy. Share. Repeat.
- Cut 4-6 pieces of bacon into small pieces and cook in a large pot until browned. Remove and put aside for later.
- In the bacon grease, cook one diced green or yellow pepper and one diced onion until the onion is transparent (but don't let it brown)
- Add 32 oz. chicken stock and two small-medium potatoes, peeled and diced. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes.
- Add 6 cups corn (I use thawed frozen white corn and I put about half of it through a blender or food processor first)
- Bring back to a boil, then reduce and simmer until potatoes are tender
- In a separate bowl, combine two cups milk, 2 tbsp flour and salt and pepper. Add this mixture to the pot and heat thoroughly.
- Add crumbled bacon pieces and combine
Sunday, September 20, 2009
Over the course of my education, I spent much of it focused on our health care system. Beginning in college, through law school and into the public health program, I learned more and more about our system. And most importantly, I learned about how it developed. How we got ourselves into the mess we are in. I don't think that anyone can fully appreciate the current situation without at least a basic understanding of why it is the way it is.
You have to go back years, to the turn of the century before this one, to really see how it all began. Western medicine as we know it today really took off about then. Proclaiming scientific superiority, all other ways to heal people were discounted and proclaimed inferior. Midwives were forced almost entirely out of practice. Men replaced women as the experts on childbirth, when women had been looked to for thousands of years as the experts for obvious reasons. Unfortunately, those changes weren't always for the better. And they were almost never based on any proof. The so-called science was in large part untested and unproven. And more and more women started dying in childbirth. In the so-called safer, more sanitary hospital environment, more of them died. Was it really better? I'd argue it was not, and that change was a harbinger of doom for the future of the health care system in our country.
The general population started to believe that just because physicians said they were better, that they were. Hospitals flourished. Instead of treating sick people at home, we now were bringing them to a central location. One where the germs could multiply and spread easier. And hospitals were expensive. And physicians wanted to make money.
The invention of health insurance is another critical development in our country's health care system. It grew up in a fee for service regime, intended to trust that patients and doctors would only utilize it when they needed to, and that the insurance was there the reimburse for the costs. It was a good time to be a doctor. To be a hospital. You could perform all kinds of tests and procedures, and someone just wrote you a check. Life was good. It was good, that is, until the system started to fail. When the costs got too high. When pooling the risks didn't work anymore.
At some point, the insurance companies realized that maybe this wasn't the way to go. Maybe they were paying out too much for services. Maybe all these patients didn't really need all the care they were receiving. Utilization reviews started. Prior authorization was invented. The term in-network developed. Insurance companies started to reign in payments. The problem was that the system was already set up the other way. People wanted their health care the way they were accustomed to receiving it. Physicians liked making money. And by now an entire industry was blossoming, creating technologies, pharmaceuticals and devices, and convincing people that they needed them.
Essentially what happened is that a completely for-profit system developed. We put the motivation for care in terms of the almighty dollar. Then we tried to change it to non-profit. And it is a miserable failure. We are at a point now of a disconnect between what we can provide and what we do. We have the technology to have the best health care system in the world. But out infant mortality rates paint another picture. A large portion of our population is uninsured. Some are uninsured partially by choice, not because it isn't offered, but because they can't afford the coverage offered. And there are even more people out there with abysmal coverage. People like us.
In my opinion, I think that something radical must be done. The CEOs of the insurance companies are making multi million dollar salaries, the CEOs of the supposedly non-profit entities. Nothing non-profit about those numbers. Someone is indeed profiting from the condition of our system. And they are using that money to buy influence in the government. To buy commercial time on tv and use scare tactics to convince the general population that reform is bad. They like to make people believe that things will be so much worse when the government has a role in decisions about their care. They want people to believe that their health care decisions aren't already being shaped by someone else. By them. Someone else is very much indeed already making decisions about your health care my friends, and they are doing it with their own pockets in mind. It's earning them millions of dollars.
Throw in there the mess that is Medicare and you have yourself a quandary. Medicare was set up as an entitlement system. Reach a certain age, and you get benefits. For free. There was never a means test. There was never a requirement that those eligible on the basis of age had to also be unable to pay for it. It worked great when people died at younger ages, and the ratio of working people to retirees was different. But we can keep people alive for years and years longer than we used to, thanks in large part to the hugely expensive medications. Not only are they living longer, but they are living longer with chronic medical conditions. Ones which we, as a society, pay for. Medicare needs to be overhauled. It needs to be means tested. And the age of eligibility needs to be raised. Or the entire system will fail. It is failing.
There are so many facets of our health care system that are flawed. So many misguided places for motivation. I could write about this all day, obviously. It's something I am passionate about. And it is something that we should all be passionate about. It's your life, and your children's lives at stake here. Pay attention.
Wednesday, September 16, 2009
There are times in the lives of all parents that push you to the edge. That you start to wonder if you are doing the right thing. Where you feel like a complete and total failure. When you wonder if you are irreversibly screwing up your children.
The hardest part of parenting is that you never really know what is coming next. Just when you think that you are starting to figure it all out, you get broadsided by something new and unexpected. Some new phase. Some new drama. Some new challenge. And it never ends.
Just for a little while, I'd settle for boring and dull and predictable. Just for a little while.
Tuesday, September 15, 2009
That word has plenty of applications in the physical realm, like when I learned yesterday that the fluid behind Ally's eardrums had festered enough to stir up a raging ear infection. Or the time that a hangnail on her hand festered until it eventually became a nasty infected wound. Festering is never good.
Though it certainly can be used to describe the physical things, those with actual visible proof of it, I think the word is more dangerous in the mind. Once a bad thought creeps into your head, it can do no good. Especially once it starts to fester.
Hypothetically bad scenarios can morph into full blown worst case ones. A single word spoken by someone can be analyzed and overanalyzed until it spells certain doom. The mind has a way of taking something and running with it. And it doesn't always run in the right direction.
I suppose the moral of the story is that you don't want things to have the chance to fester. If there is something you need to say, then say it. Don't sit back and hold it in. If you need a question answered, ask it. Don't conjure up all kinds of possible ways it could play out. Don't invent answers to the unasked. And please, if you have a cut, clean and bandage it properly. You wouldn't want it to fester.
Monday, September 14, 2009
You know who I am talking about. The people who just assume that you know the deal. The ones that figure you should just understand. The people who are always smarter than you. The people who are always richer than you. Who are always thinner than you. The people who have the newest and best of everything. The people who see nothing wrong with parking in the fire lanes, in the handicapped spots. They are special. The people who beg for compliments, feel compelled to show off their latest and greatest thing. The people who's kids are better than yours.
I don't know where this sense of entitlement comes from. I've never been one to be like this, and I've always been amused by those who fall victim to it. Even more amusing are the people who try in vain to compete with it. The people who look up to those who believe they are better. Those who aspire to be better than the rest of us. To embrace the illusion.
The truth is that people are just people. No one is better than anyone else. Life isn't a competition. People have intrinsic value, which has nothing to do with their bank accounts, the diplomas that hang on their wall, or the size of their waistlines. Attaching more value to someone because of those is a fallacy. And attaching it to yourself borders on ridiculous.
To all those who believe that they are better than the rest of us, get over yourself. If you knew how silly you look, trying to raise yourself up on that pedestal, maybe, just maybe, you would be humbled. And maybe you would realize that it's time to knock it off.
Sunday, September 13, 2009
Every once in a while a new game will come out, one that he just has to have. Most of the time, it's the adventure games that he gets really into. When the newest Legend of Zelda came out, he was pretty routinely up until 2am playing until he beat the game. He can get still get sucked in, for sure.
As much as I don't understand his love of the games, I try to leave him alone so he can play. I know he loves it. When we got married, we got each other gifts. He bought me diamond stud earrings, I bought him a Playstation 2. The Playstation was good enough for him for many years, even with the release of newer, better gaming systems. It was good enough, that is, until the Wii came out.
I didn't see what the huge appeal of the Wii was, mostly because of the fact that I don't play video games to begin with. But for whatever reason, he really, really, really wanted it. It was released a few years ago, and the demand was so high that stores sold out immediately and you couldn't find them online. I set out to get him one. Don't ask me why.
It took weeks of getting up at the crack of dawn on weekend mornings, perusing the ads to see which store was getting in a new shipment, standing in line before doors opened and waiting. Lots of waiting. The morning I finally got one, it was 10 degrees, and I had to wait outside Target for 45 minutes. I must love him.
The Wii is different. I'm more likely to play it because it isn't like most other video games. It's interactive, and we can play some of the games with the kids. As I sit here typing this, Tom is playing Guitar Hero with the kids. There is nothing in the world like hearing your six year old screaming the lyrics to Beastie Boys songs.
Though I am not generally a video game player, I love Guitar Hero. When we first got it, I was pregnant with AJ. And I was up for days, late into the night until I beat the game. Tom was a little mystified. He'd never seen me like that. He got tired of playing long before I did. And for a few days at least, he knew how I feel when he spends hours and hours playing.
There is a new Beatles version that just came out. Grandma Kathi has already started talking about it. Maybe we can get her to grab a guitar and join the band. Rock on, my friends. Rock on.
Saturday, September 12, 2009
There is a much overused saying that God only hands you as much as you can handle. And that you never know how much you can handle until you are tested. That only through being tested can you fully see the extent of your abilities, the limits of your patience, the strength of your resolve. I've told people these things plenty of times in an attempt to help, and others have said them to me when I needed to hear them. When you are in the thick of it, when you feel like things are spiraling out of control, you never believe them.
It's been a hard few weeks around here. But I will persevere. I will do what needs to be done. And, yes, I will be stronger in the end. We all will be.
Friday, September 11, 2009
I was laying in bed, just about to shut my eyes and try to get some more rest. Next to me, a three and a half month old Aidan was sleeping. The morning sunlight streaming in through a gap in the curtains, the cats curled up at my feet. Pretty close to perfect. The phone rang and Aidan stirred a little. I reached around him to grab it before it could ring again, and it was Tom. No hello. No how is the baby. All he asked was if I had turned on the tv yet. No, why?
I fumbled for the remote and turned it on. And just then, the first tower fell. Oh my God. At that point, no one really knew what was happening. The only information available was that planes had hit the buildings, and they collapsed. The Pentagon. A plane down in Pennsylvania. Chaos. Terror. Who? Why?
I begged him to come home. At the time, we were living in San Diego and he worked in the tallest building in the flight path to the airport. The FAA was in the process of grounding all planes, but they weren't all down yet. And, really, no one knew if this was part of a larger attack. Was there anything else planned? Where else would be hit? He said he'd be home when he could get out.
In the course of that phone conversation, in the mere minutes it took for me to absorb what was going on, everything changed. I looked over at my son, my baby boy, and suddenly I was afraid. I was afraid for him. For us. For all of us. I was afraid for the world that he would grow up in. For the dangers out there, the known and the unknown.
A knock at the door. My neighbor. He husband was in the Navy, and had been called in to defend the Port. No one knew what was going on, but they had to protect the base. Her son was a few months older than Aidan. And we sat on the floor for hours. Practically silent with our babies, we sat and we cried.
In one day, our generation learned what fear was. We felt vulnerable. We watched the sky with apprehension when the planes started flying again. We were hesitant to walk back into stadiums and amusement parks.
It has been long enough now that people have started to forget. Just going through the motions of a regular life, there will be people who don't remember today. My kids are old enough now to ask me why the flag is at half mast. They live in the post 9/11 world, the one where we are not always safe here at home. The one where buildings can come crashing down. The one where danger lurks, hiding among us. Waiting.
Never forget what happened eight years ago. And never again think that it can't happen here. We must do what we can to prevent it without sacrificing our freedoms in the process. We can't live in fear, even if we are afraid. For if we do, we have already lost.
Wednesday, September 9, 2009
Every time I see that collar, it makes me a little sad. It belonged to Droopey. And Droopey belonged to Tom. When we first started dating, Tom mentioned that he really wanted a dog. By Thanksgiving of that year, I had built up the nerve to ask his parents if it would be okay for me to get one for him. They reluctantly agreed. I'm pretty sure that the didn't really want a dog. But Tom did, so they said yes.
I spent weeks looking for a puppy. As I found out quickly, trying to find a dog in December is no easy task. I couldn't afford the pet store prices. I finally started combing the newspaper classifieds, hoping. After a couple weeks, I found one. It was a Springer Spaniel, a male, and not exactly a puppy. He wasn't little and tiny anymore, he was already about 3 1/2 months old. Out of desperation, I agreed to it. It was a dog at least, and there were only a few days left until Christmas. I didn't even get to see the dog until I had to go and pick him up.
He was bigger than I expected, but he was still very much a puppy. He was white and brown with random spots and long, soft curly ears. And from the moment I laid eyes on him, I knew. He was the one. He might have been the only dog in a 20 mile radius that I could find the week before Christmas, but it didn't matter. He was the one.
His eyes were big and brown, and they looked up at me with hope. Of course I was taking him. In less than 48 hours, he would have a new owner. On Christmas morning, I went and dropped him off. Tom had already been told about the dog, so it wasn't a total surprise. But he was still pretty excited. This was his dog. It didn't take long for this big, giant puppy to have a name. Droopey. He just looked like a Droopey.
He was the sweetest, most mellow, most obedient dog ever. He had a few moments of puppyhood, the most memorable of which was the time he got into the dog food tin and ate and ate and ate until he was perfectly round. He didn't stop eating until someone got home. He didn't have an off switch. Couldn't help it. It took a few days for his digestive system to get back to normal after that.
Though he was Tom's dog, dogs don't go to college. While his owner went off to experience the life of a student far away from home, Droopey stayed behind. And he waited. The dog, so we were told, spent a lot of time sitting by the door. And he transformed right back into a puppy anytime Tom was home. He knew who his master was. By the time we were able to buy a house where we could have a dog his size, he was old. Too old to move, and too attached to TJ's new dog. Though we really wanted to bring him with us, we thought it was best to leave him.
He was also a fragile dog. He had many things trouble him during his time on this earth. He had a hernia as a puppy. He had so many ear infections that I couldn't even venture a guess as to how many. He had problems with his paws. And finally, he got sick and withered away. He wasn't very old when my in-laws had no choice but to put him down. And I will forever be grateful that I wasn't living there at the time. I don't think I could have done it. I don't think Tom could have. Someday I will have to take a dog on that last walk, someday I won't be able to escape that part of pet ownership.
I think in this life you are either a dog person or you aren't. And a dog like Droopey could make you a dog lover even if you weren't one before. Dogs never ask questions. They never judge. They don't ask you where you've been or why. They are just glad that you are home. And they just want to be there with you. If you happen to toss a ball or share a treat, even better.
All we have left of Droopey now are some pictures, memories and this collar. If you shake it just right, it sounds the same way it did when he wore it. Rest in peace, my furry friend. You were the best dog I could have found. There was a reason you were the only one.
"You think dogs will not be in heaven? I tell you, they will be there long before any of us." ~Robert Louis Stevenson
Monday, September 7, 2009
I have been asked a few times by different people what my opinion about this upcoming speech is. My knee jerk reaction is that I didn't really have one. I obviously had not seen the speech, or read the text of it, since it had not happened yet. He's the President, and if he feels the need to talk to kids, so be it. Clearly, I was in the minority. Everyone else, it seems, has an opinion.
The right wing media picked up on the plan and ran with it. They are pretty good at that. And they are even better at stirring up unnecessary drama at every possible opportunity. Never mind the fact that the past Presidents who have done this exact same thing have been Republicans. George H.W. Bush and Ronald Reagan both spoke to children at school. And though I was a child at the time, I remember those speeches. What I don't remember is any drama surrounding them. The "liberal" media must not have thought it was worth making an issue of. But times are different now. He's a Democrat.
Like it or not, he is the President. Though not everyone may have voted for him, he did win. And the office of the President is the most important in our nation, one that must be respected regardless of who holds it and whether you agree with everything they happen to be doing at the time. I did vote for him. Do I agree with everything he has done thus far? Of course not. But he is the President.
I have many conservative friends who have expressed not just displeasure, but bold faced outrage about the speech. Words like brainwashing and stumping have been mentioned. It's not an election year. He's not running for office. Just because he is a politician doesn't mean that everything he has to say is, as a result, political. Why is it so objectionable for him to talk to kids? Do people honestly believe that he would use that platform to manipulate children for political purposes? If the answer is yes, as I know for some it is, it's a shame.
There are other parents that just don't want a political figure in the classroom at all. Who feel that it is their job alone to teach their kids about the way our government works. I'm the opposite, obviously. I majored in public policy in college. I went to government leadership programs in high school. I feel pretty strongly about the fact that children need to be taught about our system from a young age. And they need to be taught about it not just by their parents, but by a neutral third party. I would hope that school could be that neutral third party. That it could be somewhere that children are taught about our government without being taught the biases that come with politics. The biases that parents have.
The school the kids go to, already in and of itself a highly political creature, has wavered. The district's policy was a total cop-out. They made a decision not to make a decision about the speech, giving the teachers instead the discretion about allowing children to view the speech. Parents could opt out if they chose. The school was originally going to follow that policy, much to the chagrin of some insanely vocal parents. Upset that their children would be missing out on valuable time that should be spent in the classroom, they basically threw a collective fit. Never mind the fact that the kids were pulled out of class last week for an hour for something even less important to their education. They had an assembly that amounted to little else than a sales pitch lesson for the PTO fundraiser. President's speech = bad. Peddling crap for $ = good. Interesting priorities. Yeah, I said it. Flog me.
Giving in to the demands of a few parents, the school changed the plan. They sent home permission slips Friday, which must be signed and returned if we want our kids to be allowed to watch the speech. Instead of opting out, we now must opt in. Such a seemingly small change will result in a huge difference. And the kids who have parents that are paranoid about politics will be denied the opportunity to see the speech. The ones who will deny their kids the chance to learn something from the leader of the free world in the name of protecting them. Missing out also will be the kids that forgot to have a parent sign the sheet. Or that forgot to give it to their parents in the first place. Or that lost the form on the way to school. Or that weren't at school on Friday and never got one in the first place. You see where I am going with this, right?
Last time I checked, communication wasn't a bad thing. With all the influences that come into our children's lives, whether through tv, the internet, movies, music, friends, parents, or elsewhere, this warrants a permission slip? Surely, commercials on tv are more manipulative, more persuasive, more influential in our children's daily lives than anything Obama could say. Any parent who thinks that they really know everything their kids are absorbing from friends is in terrible denial of reality. But this, a speech from the President of our country, inspires insult slinging debates? An uproar from parents? Permission slips?
There is a saying that you can't please everyone all the time. Not even the President can. It doesn't matter which side of the aisle he aligns himself with. It's impossible. Just make sure your kids don't need a permission slip for school tomorrow. You wouldn't want them brainwashed or anything.
Saturday, September 5, 2009
A few years ago, I dressed the girls as bees for Halloween. Besides just being adorable costumes, I was trying to be witty. Only one person got my humor though when we took the kids to school for the Fall ball. But the one person who did see the point of the costumes thought I was hilarious. She just laughed and laughed at the "Da Bees".
Friday, September 4, 2009
One of the hardest things for me to deal with when it came to moving here was leaving some fantastic friends behind. I don't make friends easily. I make acquaintances pretty quickly, but real friends take longer. And it's more rare. It was a hard thing for me to leave them. To leave her.
We met many years ago, when Aidan was only just barely two years old. Ashley was just a baby. It was just chance that we both stayed a little later one morning after taking the boys to a class and found one another. We became very good friends with time, and have seen sides of each other that other people rarely get to see. I was fortunate that she allowed me to help her when she gave birth to her second child. Being a doula is a blessing, but it's even more special when it's friend.
A year after we left, we went back for a visit. And I saw her, at about the time in both of our lives where the bottom had dropped out. Or at least it seemed that way. And though we hadn't seen each other in a year, had talked only a few times, we shared. We laughed. We cried. And we talked. We talked about everything. The good, the bad and yes, the ugly. No judgment, no questions, no hesitation. Acceptance. Love. Sympathy. Understanding.
After that trip, we sort of lost contact entirely. Over time, the phone calls lessened. The emails became nonexistent. We were down to the obligatory holiday card communication. No more, no less. Until one day, back in December of last year.
We reconnected through that infamous social networking site, Facebook. I'm not sure who found who. I'd have to venture a guess that she found me, since I am pretty sure she was on there before I was. I was reluctant to get on Facebook. I didn't want another thing I felt like I had to do. There were people from my past that I wondered about certainly, but many I was fine with leaving in the past.
Tom actually got on there before I did. And then I gave in. And within less than a week, we had found one another, this friend and I. And though we had hardly spoken in years, it was almost like nothing had happened. It was like we were right back together. Though our children had aged, our lives had changed, our situations were different, and we had both undergone some serious personal trials and tribulations, it was as though none of that mattered. We picked right back up where we left off.
I think it says something about our friendship that we can be this way with one another. She knows more about me than most people ever will. I can tell her, truthfully, anything. And I hope that she feels the same way. I'm pretty sure she does. There is no pretense with us. No being ashamed. No hiding the things that make us cringe with discomfort. We lean on one another. And we laugh. God, do we laugh.
In our lives, we are blessed with only a handful of people like this. People like her. Not many, and not often. But when you find them, you keep them. Sometimes you have to tuck them away for a while, out of sight and out of mind. But never out of heart. And it's so incredibly comforting to know that they will always, always be there. Anytime. And that when you find one another again, things will be the same. Things will always be the same.
True friendship is rare. Treasure it. That would make an awesome t-shirt, don't you think?
Wednesday, September 2, 2009
The time has come to find another solution. The bedrooms in this house aren't very big to begin with, but with two kids crammed into one, it just isn't working. They need their own space. They need their own places for peace and solitude away from one another. They need their own identities. And lord knows they need their own closets.
The difficulty with moving them is that we are effectively out of bedrooms. We have another room upstairs, but it is open to the family room below and currently serves two purposes - as the play room and as the guest room. Those days are over. That room is being converted to Aidan's new bedroom. I have to find a wire curtain rod system to hang, in the attempts at giving him some privacy from downstairs. Someday we'll close up the wall, but the move can't wait. We also have to build him a closet and get a lot of the stuff that is in there right now out. Much to his dismay, he isn't going to get the big screen tv in his room. That is moving downstairs.
Ally will go into Aidan's room after we figure out a way to move his bed out. He has a huge loft bed with an attached slide. Moving it won't be easy. Ally has already started asking when I am going to paint it. She wants purple, and purple she will get. But it might be a while before that happens. I have a lot of other furniture that needs to be moved first. And a lot of rearranging to do.
The guest room is moving downstairs into the office. The desk currently in there is moving upstairs into Aidan's new room. The rest of the furniture in there is moving out too. Are you starting to get the sense that this is a huge undertaking yet? I'm not really looking forward to all this furniture moving, but it really is for the greater good. Peace in my house is more important.
Wish us luck. Wish us all luck. I think we are going to be needing it.
Tuesday, September 1, 2009
College football is coming. Four more days until the first kickoff of the season, not that I am counting. Saturdays are devoted to football in my house. I start checking tv schedules weeks ahead of time. I know where to find all the regional coverage maps for major nationwide networks. All other activities are generally put on hold, planned around the games. Occasionally, we have something that we really have to do and can't be there to see the game live. Those games are recorded, and all contact with the outside world is forbidden until we watch it.
As much as I love my football team, as much as I scream at the tv, as much as I still get nervous for them, it is just not the same. Nothing can replace the feeling of being back in that stadium. Words can't describe the feeling in the air you get, following the band down Trousdale Avenue with a huge herd of fans. I don't have a flagpole to kick here. Pom poms aren't waiting for me on the couch. People would look at me funny if I spontaneously started the So Cal spell out.
Though I am far away from LA these days, my heart is still there during football season. One of the few items that gets to sit on the shelf in my family room year round is a USC football. I'll hang my flag. I'll dress my kids in their gear. And I'll change any Saturday plans I can for the next four months. Don't mind me, I'm just a superfan. Football is coming. Bring it.
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