Thursday, December 30, 2010

Goodbye House, Hello Apartment

I woke up at 4 a.m. this morning and couldn’t get back to sleep. The kids are with their dad in Tahoe; they should be getting back late tonight and I can’t wait. But it wasn’t missing the kids that made me lose my sleep. It’s the web of unfinished business I’m trying to untangle myself from. I know, life is unfinished business but I’ve got some serious inventory these days.

So by 6 a.m., I gave up on sleep and made a pot of coffee. I am happy to say that I’ve finally got a handle on my work, which is aaalllllllllll writing. And I realized there’s a very small piece of unfinished business I could take care of this morning. Your eyes might roll back in your head from boredom if you read the rest of this post but I don’t care.

Today, I am officially saying goodbye to House.

House, after eight years, you are the house I have lived in the longest. I get a little sentimental about you because you were where my daughters were babies. And there are some things I’m really going to miss about you. I like your windows and your needlessly tall ceilings. I like how you never got too warm inside, although you could be drafty and dank in winter. I think your paint job turned out very well.

You were high maintenance. You somehow broke a new washer and dryer, a new fridge, two new microwaves and a new dishwasher. You really had something against new appliances. And speaking of new, you also demanded that your entire exterior be replaced. I know the feeling but damn that was expensive, in more ways than one.

Good luck in your new life without me, House. I can’t say I’m going to miss the hours and hours of cleaning. In fact, you really helped me gain a new appreciation for small spaces, which brings me to Apartment.

Hello, Apartment. I happen to believe that whatever you don’t value with your words, you lose. So, I will stop calling you Crappy Apartment. I don’t think I’ll call you Black Beauty like the kids named you either, because that doesn’t make sense. I’ll stick to Apartment for now.

Although you make me feel like I’m living on the set of My Name is Earl sometimes, I’m really starting to like you, Apartment. I like how the doors have codes, so I can’t lock myself out. I like how you’re blue and green, which are the exact colors I was considering for House. I like how you’re pretty quiet and you have a courtyard for the kids to play in. But most of all, I like your location. Not only are you close to House, a good first move for the kids’ sake, you are literally a block away from two grocery stores, my bank, the post office, and a gas station. I’m not loving that you’re next door to a Taco Bell but the kids are certainly enthused about that. Anyway, what I’m trying to say, Apartment, is that you’re convenient. And these days, convenience is more important than ever.

I’m going to be getting used to lots of things about you, like the narrow roads to and from my parking space. Every time we leave you now, the kids beg, “Mo-om, can you crash the car into the wall again? Like you did that one time?” They really do. So, I know it’s only a matter of time before I get a little sentimental about you too.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Exactly Like the Giants Parade

Last Wednesday, I got an email from Daisy's brownie troop leaders reminding me to have her at the meeting spot for the holiday parade by a certain time and in a certain outfit. Parade?! I'll admit it wasn't the first parade announcement, but at the time, I was dumbfounded by the information. Mostly because last week was insanity. I would even call it a journey, and I don't even like that kind of corny talk but whatever.

Here's the story. I started the week frustrated after more discouraging apartment hunting. I was scheduled to start a new job on Monday. The new job was delayed a day, and I found an apartment! I discovered the job was in jeopardy. Oh no! I could still scrape by without the third job, but it would be so much better with it. Then, the job was back on. Hurray! I signed a 9-month lease and picked up the keys. We told the kids about the family reorganization, and they began to work through their emotional reactions. I bought a loft bed that goes over a futon and a leather queen sleeper sofa. The job fell through. I turned 40.

After looking at the parade reminder and stressing out for a sec, I decided it might be the perfect way to spend our Saturday morning. Anyway, I've been in the mood for a parade ever since I heard those Giants fans go on about theirs. It wasn't until I dropped Daisy off with her troop and found a spot along the route that I remembered the problem with parades. They can totally make me cry, especially marching bands. I don't know what it is, but whenever I hear one live, I feel like my best friend has just been killed doing something honorable and it's time to carry on bravely.

I was relieved there was only one marching band, and they went first.

There's Daisy with her spiffy parade walk.

As usual, Violet was genuinely happy for her sister getting so much attention.

This is when Violet admitted that maybe the parade didn't totally suck.

But then, a lot of it really did. Some people didn't seem to know why they were even in a parade.

And yeah, those last guys were actually in the parade and came over for a visit with our dog. That is one interactive parade, and there's no need to be throwing beers at each other, Burrell.

Enjoyed the cars. Here's a couple faves. Not really a car person though.

Here's what I liked.

Don't forget about the roller derby girls. I totally have a story related to the local roller derby. Saving it. 

Sunday, November 28, 2010


Violet greeted me first thing Thursday with “Happy Valentime’s!” and for the hundredth time this week, I told her it was Thanksgiving. “What do you eat again?” Turkey. “I don’t yike . . . two-key!” (Think Clint Eastwood at his most disgusted.) Then don’t eat it. I’m sure you won’t starve at Grandma and Grandpa’s.

Daisy, my seven year old, is a gratitude natural. She faces the world with open arms, demonstrating an earnest appreciation for all creatures great and small. Violet, on the other hand, is not really a friend to the concept.

Tuesday was Violet’s Popcorn Pow-wow at preschool. It was something she was looking forward to because it was my coop shift, plus her sister didn’t have school this week. Daisy convulsed in envy when she learned she could not join us, and Violet flaunted her privileged status, until Tuesday morning when she approached me in the kitchen, “I don’t want to wear my pow-wow.” What’s your pow-wow? “I don’t want to!” OK, you don’t have to wear something weird if you don’t want to, but it sounds really cute, and I’m bringing my camera. “No!”

I have come to love my preschool shifts. We have the bomb teachers there right now. Sometimes, I feel like I have enrolled myself in preschool, and I mean that in the best possible way. The teachers know about our family reorganization in process, and they have been particularly generous with their warm hugs and gentle reassurances lately, like “You know exactly what to do.” (I love that simple piece of advice - it's the best possible thing you can say to someone who's going through a challenging time.) When we arrived to school on Tuesday, one teacher invited me to relax at the craft table in the kitchen and enjoy the fresh pot of coffee. I sat in one of the little plastic and metal chairs, getting quickly into my relaxation time before SOMEONE interrupted, “Mama, I want you to come pway with me.” But I’m relaxing in the kitchen. That’s what Teacher said to do. “But I want you to do a puzzle with me!” Oh, alright.

Recess was canceled due to rain, so the teachers killed time by encouraging the kids to share songs. There was some impressive embarrassment-free improvisation, at least until I joined in on the group singing and dancing. It’s not really something I do but ANYONE would feel comfortable at this school. Then I noticed my daughter curled up on the ground in a fetal position, blushing and begging me to stop. I thought I had a few good years left before I could inspire that level of embarrassment but whatever. I decided just to watch.

In the last half hour of the day, most of the parents joined the pow-wow. The kids sang songs while the popcorn popper went off in the center of the construction-paper “fire.” Pre-prepared bags of popcorn were then distributed to the excited kids. Violet immeditatlely sent her popcorn back because it wasn’t warm. Someone brought her a second bag.

Violet made it clear that the popcorn was not acceptable, and I warned her that she needed to deal. The kernels jumping out of the air popper from 1980 were just for effect. That wasn’t the answer I-want-it-warm Violet wanted to hear, which led to a self-directed time-out. She sat on the other side of the wall from the pow-wow, and it wasn’t long before she was sprawled face down on the lightly pee-scented carpet. I scanned the crowd to discover my kid was the only one not enjoying herself. Some kids were even taking turns sharing how grateful they were for the lukewarm popcorn and their mothers. All Violet had to say was “I hate this day.”

Violet managed to slip out the front door as I gathered our belongings at dismissal. I found her running laps on the lawn with a boy from her class who was adopted from Africa about six months ago. The kid is fascinating to me, partly because he seems to have adjusted remarkably well to a ton of changes in no time. He’s my little buddy, the only one who will boldly encroach on Violet’s lap space during story time. Their interactions have been mostly silent belligerent stares. But on this day, they shared the thrill of escaping the watchful eyes of their parents with giggles of pure joy. Seeing their coatless, happy selves with muddy knees running free on the wet grass is one of the moments I’m most grateful for this week. That and learning how easy it is to embarrass Violet in public (useful!).


Sunday, November 21, 2010

Bug Bodies

Oh my goodness . . . ten days later. Divorce doesn’t lend itself to a lot of cute blog posts. Everything’s going OK considering the circumstances. Each day’s a little different.

There are moments when I have to ignore everything I hear or dread to check in with what I know in my core, and I remember how I got here. And although this time of transition is messing with my mind, I’m at peace with the decision and bracing myself for the looming change.

So let me tell you about Bug Bodies.

Daisy has a monthly homework project to be completed with parents. The thing is no joke, and this month was an insect game. Daisy and I came up with the concept, purchased supplies, and assembled the game parts. Daisy worked on the questions with her dad.

The concept was that you earn bug parts by answering questions about insects correctly with the goal of assembling a complete bug. The number of questions you’re given is determined by a role of the dice. What kid wouldn’t want to play that? I imagined marketing it to Hasbro. We would become game millionaires and spend the rest of our lives dreaming up new concepts for learning tools that would literally transform lives. Every night would be family game night.

As Daisy colored the bug parts, I repeatedly reminded her to slow down. She was going too fast, leaving huge white spaces. She enthusiastically shouted back at me, “Slow down? Mom, I didn’t know! You want me to slow down WHEN I’M COLORING and THEN I’ll do a good job? Mom, I never knew that! I never heard that my whole life until now.” It might sound sarcastic when you read it, but her tone was sincere in a kid politician sort of way.

We tried to make the bug parts interchangeable, which led to some serious Velcro engineering, especially since the parts were not consistent sizes or shapes. At the beginning of the final night of work on the game, Daisy told me I was a genius as she watched me laminate. Figuring out the Velcro pattern took up a ridiculous amount of time, and hours later, I was snapping at her to pick up the 6 million uncapped pens she had meanwhile knocked on the floor. While hanging her head and arms off the side of her chair, she declared with a medium-high amount of drama, “Gosh, Mom. I’m just a kid.” GET. OUT. OF. YOUR. SEAT. AND. PICK. UP. THE. PENS. NOW. “O-K!” Homework projects. Good times.

Daisy was disappointed with the feedback she received from the other second graders. She said only one person liked Bug Bodies. Everyone else got a serious face – she demonstrated a look that was definitely not entertained – when they played. I’ll guess we’ll stick to the life of amateur game creators for now.


Wednesday, November 10, 2010

The Autumn of Love

I have to write about the Giants lovefest that may have permanently taken over The City. Really, I have to because Tabitha's making me. She gave me an orientation when I stayed with her last weekend. I tried to talk her into writing about it because I'm a baseball outsider, who happens to be from a family with three generations of Dodger fans. I may not give it the tender understanding it deserves.

I referred to the Baseball Finals when I was talking to my dad the other day, so obviously I know nothing about baseball. But I was still entertained by the Giants talk show Tabitha was listening to in the car on Saturday. By the euphoric tone of the callers, I thought it must be a rebroadcast. But no, it was a full five days after the World Series had been won. And did you hear about that victory parade? It was the best parade that ever happened in the history of parades, filled with the bromantic cries of "I love you guys!" One awed caller recalled complimenting Pat Burrell on his beer during the parade. Burrell threw the beer at him, which he nervously caught one-handed. When Burrell ordered him to slam it, he didn't have to ask twice. The sound in the fan's voice convinced me he wasn't exaggerating when he summed up the parade in one word: orgasmic.

Of course, I can totally appreciate the story of the underdog team with no superstars who won it all. Tabitha described how her fiance's friends, who grew up playing Little League together in the Bay Area, screamed and did those brutalizing sports fan hugs when the Giants won the series; Tabitha even sustained a hug-related injury. Later, my dad translated for me, "Imagine watching the Lakers as long as you have, but they just won their first championship." OK, I think I get it.

But did you know that God was a Giants fan? During Game 2, the game Tabitha was able to attend, it was just before the first pitch, and the clouds parted and sunbeams bathed the players in holy light - but only the Giants, not those other guys. The sky remained strangely beautiful as the Giants accepted their ordained 9-0 victory. The night of the championship game in Texas, God turned the sky orange and black in San Francisco, just after sunset. I heard it on the Giants talk show.

I have to admit, I was feeling the love, which is why I might have "accidentally" packed Tabitha's favorite shirt. (I promise I'll send it back soon!) Check this out.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Wow, November

One of my faults is I tend to run a little late. I can manage this tendency when it comes to work but cut it close too often. Believe me, I know down to the minute how long it takes to drive to various work locations.

I run a couple minutes late to one tutoring job at least once a week. It drives me crazy because it's the work location closest to home, a mere 13 minutes away, yet it's the one with my worst promptness record. What gets me are the local meandering roads clogged by tourists with nothing but time on their hands. (Oh, how we love to blame the trannies. Don't they know that some of us have to work in this town?)

I came up with a shiny new routine. I will now leave at least 10 minutes ahead of my have-to departure time. And what will I do with all that time to kill once I get there? Read! I always have a stack of books and magazines in my to-read pile. I know, brilliant.

So today, instead of keeping one eye on the clock and focusing on getting around slow-moving tourists, I took a leisurely drive to work. I was struck by the warm, beautiful day. What month is this anyway? When I arrived 10 minutes ahead of schedule, I couldn't possibly sit inside the car and read when the ocean, only a half-block away, was sparkling so invitingly in the sun. I grabbed my camera; I had plenty of time.

I walked quickly to the water and breathed in the moist, salty air. It's been a while since I've seen the ocean. I didn't have a watch or even my cell, so I didn't stay long. On the way back, several Monarch butterflies fluttered by, and I had to have a picture. I followed the butterflies to the nearby preserve and took several pics - I didn't get anything great but actually captured a couple (last pic). Then, I realized I better get to work.

I was five minutes late. Dang! Next time, I'm sticking to the plan.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Dog Halloween 2010

Last Saturday was DOG HALLOWEEN!!!! Love. Love. Love.

This year was extra special because it was the Halloween debut of Lena, my parents' puppy. It ended up being just my dad and I with two kids and two dogs. In the future, I would keep the adult to kid/dog ratio to greater than 1 to 2. Maybe it was the umbrellas necessitated by the rain or my insistence on taking pictures of anyone willing to stop, which was pretty much everyone, but it was a little management heavy.

Lena and Sadie went as squirrels. Sadie is an old pro; she practically slips on her own costume. Lena didn't know what to expect. But soon, it was all made clear: just tolerate the squirrel getup and you'll get more scooby snacks than you ever dreamed.

There is Dorothy and the Tin Man with their proud owners. Do you see that freaky Dog Halloween spirit? I'm telling you, it warms my heart.

And you don't even have to match your dog. Maybe you're feeling Pirate and he's feeling Clown. It's all good.

This costume was a game changer for me. Now, I see nothing but possibilities when I look at the baskets of barbies and action figures in the kids' rooms.

Oh, so pretty! I found myself saying that over and over again to some of my fellow dog costume enthusiasts. If you could see the owner's face, you'd see beaming in effect.

This dog obviously thought she was god's gift to Dog Halloween She was looking over at Lena, who was having a momentary barking problem. I wasn't impressed with the witch's attitude.

This owner was pleased with his joke: "It's a wolf in sheep's clothing!" Nice one.

It was almost impossible to get a picture of Lena, who was hyped for the treats. Sadie was more composed; she just wanted to make sure the treat distribution was equitable.

Dog Halloween doesn't have to be fancy.

This costume was in the Good Try category. I think we guessed Microchip, but it was actually Robot.

I would have given this guy a high five if he had a free hand. I think I gave him a thumbs up instead.

About a half hour in, the little dogs were starting to burn out, but the owners were still going strong.

This was another owner who was proud of his joke, even waterproofing his billboard. I found it to be a bit hostile and not really a costume. But that's OK. Dog Halloween is an all-inclusive event.