Friday, November 28, 2014

Happy Crazyfamily!

The girls and I joined my bro at my parents' home in San Jose for Thanksgiving yesterday. As the adults got into a loud debate over current events, Daisy taught her younger sister how to use iMovie, a little something she learned in middle school recently.

When the kids showed their movies, it was surprising to see all the action that had happened a short distance away from the grown-ups, if action means a lot of footage of two old dogs. It was also surprising to see what happened to Grandpa's chapstick in one of the featured films.

I once heard a friend discussing kids with another friend, dad to dad. I was taken aback when I heard them say, "I'm so glad I don't have uncoordinated kids." "Oh yeah totally. That would be a drag." Um, what's wrong with uncoordinated people?

For me, it's: I'm so glad I have funny kids. It would totally be a drag to be living with a bunch of serious, non-freaky little people.






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Thursday, November 6, 2014


It went so fast.

The dogs didn't even debut their ghostbuster outfits. So bummed. Next year.

This was everything we needed to leave the house for one day last week and it wasn't even Halloween yet. Managing a week of dress-up days, a class party, a school dance, regular homework, project homework, and holiday festivities in the rain across two households was a challenge requiring a multifaceted approach.

And, voila!

Hello, ghost zombie cowgirl.

Hello, middle school dark fairy.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

i 11

Daisy turned 11 this weekend. This is apparently the birthday when you just hand over the iPhone. Her father and I worked hard to make her think she wasn't getting The Only Thing She Wanted. Then she asked for Just One Other Thing -- an iguana. Well played. She knows she is not allowed to get a 30-year pet under any circumstances, even at dad's.

Shortly after getting the phone, Daisy called out, "Violet! Come here and do a s%@#$ with me!!!"  (Please don't make me use the s-word.)  Violet's good sport smile had slipped as she watched Daisy change her wallpaper 20 times in 5 minutes, but she still cooperated, with forced smile and eyes glaring at the shiny trophy in her older sister's hand. When Daisy looked for that perfect sister s%@#$ to use as her next wallpaper, she wondered out loud, "Violet, why do you look so angry in all your pics?" They tried a few more times, until Daisy decided to use a picture of a unicorn vomiting rainbows instead.

And, by the way, my kids have got their grabbing skills down. Having a quick grab is really going to serve them well whenever they're too impatient to wait for other people to respond.


The plan for Daisy's slumber party took us on a giant lap through the neighborhood - movie, taqueria, swim, sundaes, and staring at screens of all kinds until the early morning. I had given Daisy the option for me to drop her off at a movie with her friends. She declined. I offered to sit away from her and her friends in the theater, and she couldn't quite say it, except for "actually . . . " . I realize that at some point in the not-so-distant future, I won't be allowed in the building, maybe not even on the block. But, this birthday, I got to sit with the cool kids.

And guess what other lucky thing happened? We made friends with a new kitty just after night swim. That was one lucky kitty. Definite highlight before we got back to our screens.

The morning after breakfast was gluten-free pumpkin pancakes with bacon. My daughter's friend offered to cook the pancakes, which she did to perfection, golden brown and slightly crunchy around the edges. Unfortunately, she burned her finger so I took over. The feedback was my pancakes were raw in the middle, so I put them back on for a minute. I noticed no one finished their breakfast before that tattle Violet told me the girls didn't like my pancakes because they were still raw even the second time I served them. So I marched right into the kitchen and burned the hell out of the rest of the batter. Dang it. Those first ones were really good though.

Happy 11.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014


The spousal support checks from my ex are running out in months. Since starting the new job, I've been relying on my still fully employed parents to help with my living expenses. They're both turning 66 next month. My peripheral vision currently features a large countdown clock.

I had a stress breakdown a little while back and proceeded to sign up for almost anything. I passed an interview screen for an uber-style company that sets you up to be a personal household shopper. After chatting with the interviewer, I aspired to become a boss of the shoppers, like he was.

Violet, my 8 year old, did not mince words: "It's a stupid job and the people who pay for that are lazy." I'm telling you, the naysayers.

I backed off that idea when I was instructed to create my shopper profile with a mandatory pic. My day job involves local public events. It doesn't make sense to pair that with - and when we're done here, let me do your grocery shopping for you.

But what does make sense in this way mature stage of life? The gift of your 40s is you know stuff, right? I've worked in education for over 20 years now. My current boss has described my resume as having breadth and depth. I have tools.

In general, I feel less stressed then I did this time last year, so I'm pretty sure I'm on the right track, but once in a while, fear overwhelms me or I explode with anger. At different times this morning, each girl threw her backpack on the floor with lunch and water bottle on board. They would never do that with their dad. I'm the one who buys their backpacks, replaces their lost and broken water bottles, and tries really hard to make sure their lunch food is not gross. I erupted into a temper fury after the second thrown backpack - it wasn't pretty. I had angerover for the rest of the morning.

Managing the pressure of the looming changes so I can think clearly about next steps means my absent-minded professor self is in full effect. The other day at work, I exchanged a few pleasantries with a higher up I don't know very well. He asked me about my weekend plans. I told him I was going to take my kids to Open Studios, the October artist receptions. I explained, "It's something we like to do - you know, free food." He looked at me hesitantly and added, "Yeah, and it's a little art . . . a little culture?" I nodded.

A couple hours later I realized I had told someone who has an interest in how I represent myself to the public that I was taking my kids to mooch free food off artists all over the county. It's actually an inside joke I have with my kids - but that guy doesn't know that. The truth is we love seeing the art and talking to people about their creative process. That's why we go. I literally did not enjoy even one taste of free food or wine on Saturday because I was so disgusted with myself. The art was good though.

I have one more confession resulting from my deep-space-nine mindset. I was at Goodwill a few weeks ago, in the middle of putting the house back together post carpet replacement. I felt like I had been moving for days, when I found a little desk that would fit well in my reorganized space. I carried the desk to the car. It was heavier than I thought. As I struggled to fit the desk into my car, sweat pouring down my face, a man pulled up a couple spaces away and offered to help. He tried to maneuver the desk into my car too before asking how close my home was.

My back hurting from hours of moving furniture, the idea of walking the desk back into Goodwill seemed like the less desirable option to accepting a stranger's kindness. And I live so close. The man, who had a ponytail down to his waist that was banded about 10 times saw me thinking about it - and explained that he once was in the same predicament when he had a small car instead of a truck. He was empathetic.

I found myself standing in my driveway, thanking the stranger awkwardly and making it clear I had the desk handled from there. I looked nervously at the upstairs living room window, wondering if my kids were watching when he spoke elegantly and kissed my hand. I don't remember what he said because I was too busy thinking again after my brain had apparently stopped working for the afternoon . . . oh no, what have I done now? I started to tell the man that I wished there was a something I could do to repay him - then interrupted myself when I realized what I was saying and went with: I'll pay your kindness forward.

When I tried to nonchalantly walk into the house after the man left, the kids were ready for me. "Mom, what were you doing outside?" Nothing. I found a desk.

"Mom! Who was that man!?" "What were you DOING?" "Did he give you furniture!?" "Why did you bring him to our house!?"

I'm the worst liar when confronted so I explained what happened and how it was a bad mistake and also really, really awkward.

My almost 11-year-old Daisy's inner parent stepped up, "It's OK. Just promise me you'll never let it happen again." Agreed. He's probably a nice guy who's just a little corny. Still, I was peeking out the curtains for a couple nights after the arrival of the desk.

Despite the slips in judgments and struggles to make headway, I'm optimistic. Things are where they need to be. There are possibilities. Pulling this off will feel amazing.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Back to June

Oh my goodness it's October and I haven't even gotten to June yet, when Daisy graduated from elementary school. 

I think it's safe to say that Daisy's village was concerned about her transition to middle school. The elementary school years weren't smooth for multiple reasons. And Daisy herself had recently wondered outloud if she should repeat 5th grade instead of moving on.  Then, a week before graduation, Daisy told me she had volunteered to speak at the ceremony and was working on her speech. She asked me for advice because she wanted to stand out.

My daughter gravitates toward the spotlight, but she doesn't always have a plan before she gets there. As her mother who gravitates toward not-spotlight, I was worried. Still, it was obvious that what her speech needed was a joke. Daisy's sometime BFF turned enemy with very little fr had taunted Daisy for years about launching a hula hoop into the audience during a school performance, hitting a student from another school in the head. The punchline was "kids in TWO schools are talking about you." 

And yet, just as I was stressing about talking to 200 people for the first time in my new job, my little girl marched up to her school podium with a pained expression that made my hands shake before speaking in a strong voice to more than 200 people. She owned the unfortunate hula hoop incident and enjoyed the response she got. The ceremony felt like more of a real turning point than I had anticipated.


Since then, Daisy's taken on middle school like a champ. She's keeping her unnaturally heavy backpack organized. She's concerned about her grades. She hands me her PE clothes to wash weekly. She enrolled in a cooking program and joined the book club. I'm telling you she remembers her combination for her regular locker AND her PE locker. And, just yesterday, she was so embarrassed when I was blasting Depeche Mode in the car after school that she held her head between her legs for a solid mile.

I haven't been in the mood for Depeche in so long - but I'm bringing Everything Counts into our family jams. Who can resist the strange parallel of making your kid in middle school uncomfortable with music you listened to when you were an uncomfortable kid in middle school. I've really only scratched the surface on this one. 

Monday, July 28, 2014

Weekend Edition

The kids were in fine drama form over the weekend. The handoff from their dad on Saturday was not smooth, setting the stage for uncomfortable feelings to creep out in unexpected ways for the rest of the day. At the end of an overdue visit with the grandparents Saturday night, the girls were mutinous with insistent demands for a sleepover on the spot, "The people don't want us to leave!"

What people? Grandma and Grandpa are moving . . . I'm going to be gone for most of the week. We're going home. TONIGHT.

There were lots of surly kid statements made on the drive home, and at first, I chewed them out, burnt from having to deflect the Spend the Night! argument 500 times.Violet announced she was just feeling really anxious . . . about Boys and Girls Club on Monday . . . about starting third grade in the fall . . . about her parents arguing in front of her earlier that day.

I shifted from the tired "you NEED to LISTEN to your mama!" refrain to explore the purpose of being on the planet. The point of struggle being how you respond to it - not that it exists. It's supposed to exist. The kids were engaged as the conversation meandered into related topics. At home, the kids asked if I had any books about spirit stuff.

I wasn't prepared to bring out the religious texts, so I handed my 8 year old a book about dreams and my 10 year old, The Secret, which I was surprised to spot on my bookshelf. With one chapter under her belt, Daisy adopted the phrase, "Like attracts like."

Maybe all that what goes around comes around, give and you shall receive talk inspired my special Sunday morning breakfast with reserved seating, lukewarm drip coffee, sunflower seeds, cold oatmeal, a chia seed snack my girls find slimy, and a meringue cookie. They talked about how long it took them to prepare it - and how the coffee was hot when they first made it. I truly appreciated their thoughtful efforts as I quietly put the food away and made a fresh cup of coffee.

For our Sunday fun, I took the kids to visit the baby cows I'm currently obsessed with at my place of work.

We ran errands with some early back-to-school shopping.

All I wanted to do for the rest of the day was be at home and get things ready for a busy week. However, that sneak Violet insisted she call her dad because she was "worried about him," if worried means getting us invited to a barbecue she knew he was at that just happened to be teeming with boys her age. I took us to the barbecue. I'm a team player; Violet, not so much. When it was finally time for reading before lights out, Violet refused to read, brush her teeth, or get in bed. She declared ALL THE OTHER KIDS AT BOYS AND GIRLS CLUB STAY UP ALL NIGHT, AND THEY TALK ABOUT IT ALL DAY LONG.

I had lost my patience by the time Violet got to that ridiculous claim, but she didn't stop there. My tone became more and more uptight: IT IS TIME FOR BED. YOU'RE GOING TO BE TIRED IN THE MORNING IF YOU DON'T GO TO BED NOW. AFTER EVERYTHING I HAVE DONE FOR YOU THIS WEEKEND, YOU NEED TO LISTEN TO ME. YOU'RE ACTING LIKE A JERK . . . Daisy, my little Secret head,  reminded me helpfully from the other side of the room, "Like attracts like, Mom!"

Yeah, OK. It's not good parenting to tell your kid she's acting like a jerk and telling your kid you have done a lot for them is indiscernible white noise, but I had reached that trembling point past patience and logic.

My seething anger certainly wasn't having a positive effect on Violet who was throwing herself around the house. I remembered to hand her a box, an old anger management technique we had recently agreed to bring back.

Violet's anger shifted to laughter as she shredded that box. She said she was sorry, and it wasn't long before both girls were fast asleep. There is no peace like the quiet of an evening that follows kid-frenzied bedtime.

Friday, July 11, 2014

What the Pug

The 4th of July celebration at the Bindy family home this year was attended by an eclectic bunch I didn't know well enough to ignore from catatonia in a nearby lounge chair. So, I noticed when the kids disappeared for a while. I found them behind closed door, engrossed in an enthusiastic debate around a piece of paper. They explained they were writing a song about their love for pugs.

Daisy had pulled me aside earlier to confide, "I will never say pug ugly EVER AGAIN. Bindy's pugs are aDORable!"

In recent times, my kids' dad might have suggested we consider the term pug ugly as a defensive strategy against Bin's general bad attitude toward the dogs that run in our reorganized family pack. Bin's and my dog grudge match started several years ago, when my dog Sadie occasionally bit a member of Bin's family. I would characterize the incidents as more herding nips than bites and it never happened with anyone else's family, but Bindy might tell a different story. All I can say is I didn't see Bin's family acting naughty, but I trust Sadie to know who's out of line.

So when I adopted my rescued dog Scout a while back, I wasn't surprised when Bindy said he's not cute. She also doesn't believe that Scout is a designer breed, as I was thrilled to discover on the internet. I am certain that Scout is a Border Collie by Corgi, aka Borgi.

But here's where it starts to get personal - Bindy claims that Scout isn't even a long dog, which is madness because the dog is shaped like a corndog. I can't tell you how many times I've discussed the issue of whether Scout is a long dog with friends and family, and everyone always says my dog is long. Because I never waste my time arguing about things that don't matter . . . got that, Bindy?

Anyway, going back to last weekend, the kids finally rejoined Bindy's 4th of July party and asked me to get everyone in the same room for their performance. I wasn't completely comfortable in that role but the kids were singing a song they wrote, and by god, there would be an audience.

People were polite but the room wasn't filled with warm fuzzies at the end of the performance. I compensated by declaring, "That was GREEAAT . . ." while snorting loudly. I made eye contact with one person before exiting the room. The kids later told me it was perfect because pugs snort too. I think I'll take that one.

And here's What the Pug. The lyrics really aren't bad.