Thursday, December 24, 2009

The Christmas card that never could (yeah, I totally missed the mark AGAIN this year!!)

The Kids: "Our phones don't seem to be working!!"

The Parents:  "Its a Christmas miracle!"

From All of Us: "Hope your holiday is merry and bright. We love you all very much- even if we can't communicate it daily!"

The Bells

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Bah Humbug!

Our community holiday tree has been up and decorated since October.

In early November I walked out of a retail store when I realized they were playing Christmas songs (and I was singing along, not even thinking about it).

Earlier in the week the kids woke up and began to play Christmas music as they got ready for school. I asked them as nice as I could to just close their door.

Driving through town last night I passed two trucks that were going super slow- annoyed, I passed and only then noticed they were hanging up the town decorations for the holidays.

Today the mailman delivered our first Christmas card of the season and I had to admit that perhaps it was time to reevaluate my stance on the matter. Its just that after pushing the "holiday spirit" out of my path for what has literally been months now, its no wonder it is so hard to finally let go and let it in. But I will try, cause I am obviously losing the battle here.

Happy Fricken Holidays Everyone! 

...Now shall we start planning for Easter?!

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Kindergarten to College in two seconds flat or how to survive the day you realize your child is no longer into cartoons and crayons

On your first day of kindergarten you were assigned a green square to sit on while your teacher took roll. Your Grandmother drove over four hours to be there and capture the moments of her first grandchild on that monumental occasion. Together she and I stood in the back smiling, and wiping away tears along with all the other parents that day.

You wrote your name for the teacher, your first assignment, by first going across the page with vertical lines. It looked like a row of sticks on the page, confused I began to nervously look around and bend down to whisper the directions again thinking you had not heard correctly. Before I could say anything you went through and filled in horizontal lines, left to right, between those vertical ones and created the letters that became your name. Brilliant. My son is brilliant.

You came home and we filled in the days that turned into the years that led us to this moment of me standing in line for fresh Orange Juice and a banana so you could have brain food and I could feel like I am still a part of something you need to get through your day. Where you now stand, inched taller than I, with the face I kissed a million times as you slept, now barely recognizable through the face I see next to me.

I have my mommy moment and gasp at all the days in between that led us here. From kindergarten, to first grade and beyond. From the days of Babe and Blues Clues (with Steve!), to the weeks you insisted everyone call you “Ash” (from Pokemon). I am beside myself remembering in a flood of emotion all the moments, suddenly so fresh, that are actually years old. How can I have forgotten the crazy obsession you had with the collectable cards you carried in that three inch binder you took with you wherever you went or the “hit clips” you would listen to and sing along with swearing to me that the Backstreet Boys were “the bomb”? 

From that first day in September with the backpack bigger than you to where we now stand today, where I will leave you with your two freshly sharpened pencils and a calculator as you take your first test for college. College. My son. Brilliant.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Catalina Island, how I spent a week there one day

Whenever I can steal some time for myself I usually do it with my camera. Having kids and endlessly capturing their lives is a hard habit to break after so many years of being allowed to do so. As teenagers they want very little to do with a lens anywhere near their vicinity. Going against them is only asking for eye rolls and huge sighs that seem to stop life in its tracks.

So I have taken to animals, landscapes, shoes, anything I see and will want to maybe see again I capture on film disk. I have also begun taking some photography classes as well as joining a few local groups who also enjoy shooting up the environment and expanding their photographic knowledge. Previously I had written about a great event Canon put on at the San Diego Zoo (here) and just recently was able to participate in another Canon event “Canon Captures Catalina”. It was a weekend venue beginning pre dawn on Saturday and continuing through Sunday filled with photo ops, great workshops, and plenty of walking that would put any stair-master to shame. As usual, Canon had all of their great cameras and lenses to loan and play with throughout your fantabulous adventure. Best part for me was that my Mom mentor and lifeline joined me on this husband/kid free weekend of bliss.

Now I could write about all the things we discussed, getting caught up on all the family biz and the various aches and pains we each have been dealing with but lets just summarize with what was discussed in Catalina stays in Catalina. 

What I will say is how wonderful it is to have come full circle with my Mom. I know I didn’t make it easy growing up, and as a single Mom she did her best filling in the shoes of what should have been done by two parents. I was not an easy child by any means, my never ending quest to see just how far I could push the limits left us many times at separate ends of the house trying to get as far away from each other as possible.

But now being with her and being a Mom myself, it is so wonderful to be able to sit across from her and be her friend. I had a wonderful weekend walking, taking pictures, learning, and laughing with her by my side. 

These days the only limits I set are the endless ones I put aside for her should she ever need anything from me. Thanks again Canon for a wonderful event! Props to you as well Mom- I know I didn’t say it near enough as a kid.

                                                                         Favorite shot of the weekend

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Pickles, Passings, and Pink Pastry Boxes To Go

I went to lunch with my Grandfather today.

We sat in the same dark green vinyl booth we have eaten at for years.

Munching on pickles packed in small wooden barrels placed before us, I looked across the table and found myself staring through the same thick black rimmed glasses he has always worn.

He waited for me to look over the menu, which I always did, even though I had memorized the menu years ago and had, the whole drive up (over an hours time), to think and decide on what I would be ordering.

Just as he had in the past, he pushed the Matzo Ball soup and ordered from the server two macaroon cookies to go, one regular and one dipped in chocolate. They would come sometime during the meal placed on our table next to the silverware and half empty plates, tucked securely inside the same pink pastry box they had be placed in for years. I would take these with me when I left, place them next to my seat as I drove back home and savor them and their memories the following days.

Maintaining our well worn path of traditions I stared at him and asked him about his life. Where he grew up, how he met my Grandmother, and on a few occasions stories about his son, my father, who I lost when I was five- the day he dropped me of at school and decided to never come back.

I would listen as he started slow but steady in remembering his youth, hard as his childhood was he would always smile through the stories of his struggles as it was those choices and decisions that would carry him into meeting my grandmother, his Clara. His joy.

His gaze inevitably grew distant as he talked, laughed, and even cried within his memories. I love being able to become a part of his past during these lunches. Even the moment of the stark realization that brings him back to us sitting together when only moments before he was swept away in 1950 makes me smile.

“Its always so good to see you” he always says. “Your visits bring back the love of my life although I could never truly do so, it is so very easy to forget the little things that built our lives together each and every day” and even though it is clues to my father that I long for it is always the stories of my grandparents that end up sweeping me away. These are the stories that cause him to pause more, wipe his eyes and smile.

My Grandmother passed away over twenty years ago when I was twelve. I recall my mother sitting me down and telling me of her passing, though because of my fathers choices I knew very little of his family while I was growing up. Most of my memories of my grandmother are through my grandfather eyes, long after they had actually occurred, and many before I was even born.

Grandma was Jewish, a vast difference from my Grandfathers catholic upbringing. Together, they created a life for each other, shared traditions, and grew their own lives into a family. It was his love for her why we always came to this place, her place with the Matzo Brie and Potato Pancakes. The reason why after two decades he continued to honor her by eating Kosher.

They raised three children, lived for each other and loved completely. I become witness to that over bagels and lox staring into the eyes of my Grandfathers past and I am honored for the chance to know that there was good there.

Yet todays lunch was so very different than those before it.

My heart full of their memories and my belly stuffed with too many pickles I found myself looking across the table to an empty booth and I began to cry.

“I miss you” I said.

“I know, but its okay, it’s all the way its supposed to be”

“That doesn't make it any easier”

“It will someday” he whispered- and then like he did one year ago today, he was gone.

I blinked and he was gone.

I went to lunch to honor my grandfather today. I sat in the same dark green vinyl booth we had eaten at for years.

Monday, September 7, 2009


PISMODISE is a combination of the words "PISMO" and "PARADISE" . A timeless phrase that describes her fun, magic, and fantastic scenery!

We have survived yet another family vacation! (... and as long as the children insist on being teenagers it will most likely be our last.)

For weeks I had prepared for the trip in anticipation of spending eight uninterrupted days with the kids camping, surfing, kayaking, and dune riding in beautiful Pismo Beach California.

In what I see now was clearly a warped fantasy of my own delusions I looked forward to cool brisk mornings with fresh coffee and bacon sizzling on the grill. Long walks on the beach as we searched for shells and perhaps the famed Pismo clams. Evenings would carry us into the night as we gathered around the fire and laughed, played games, and munched on S’mores and other goodies that seem to taste better with a bit of ash and smoke mixed in.

What I discovered however was that somewhere along the beautiful California coastline of our home and the Pismo Coast Village RV park where we were to stay the four wonderful children I had been thinking of in planning this vacation had morphed into.. brace yourself... TEENAGERS.

Ipods. Cell phones. Texting 24/7. Every single one of them had somewhere else on their mind and it took all my strength not to implode right there next to the dominoes and deck of Uno cards. Quickly I collected all electronics and explained that each day there would be three ten minute windows of time where they could check messages, text back friends, and listen to their choice of music. Thinking I had won the war I eagerly sat by the fire and prepared for what I was sure was going to be a fun night of reconnecting via the old fashioned way- no batteries, internet, or plugs required (Yeah I was THAT misguided).

What I saw when I looked up were four children huddled each in their own chair, hands in their pockets, faces drawn down and glaring beaded eyes that simply rolled each time contact was made. Nothing, I mean NOTHING could bring them back. I had played the dice, positive that it would all fall in my favor I just hadn’t planned on the united front that four teens can emit by simply sitting there and grunting one syllable responses.

We were all in bed by 9:00 pm.

In my optimistic ways I just figured it was due to the long day in the car. Tomorrow would be different, right? Ha.

The entire week was a game of tug a war between the kids and the parents, overall I would say it was a tie game in the end. I mean we may have never had the memorable night around the fire telling stories and singing camp songs (yeah, I know my imagination does go a little overboard sometimes. I blame it on my Mom and John Denver) but we did have some great moments both playing games and tackling adventures around town. As much as I bitch about teenagers I do love each and every one of them (Like eighty percent of the time).

...and its Okay Katie, we can go on another vacation next summer I was just kidding.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

X-Rated Chowder Hour

Am I the only one who sees something wrong with this wall mural painted in a family restaurant that boasts a famous recipe of Clam Chowder?

Sad thing is the kids are the ones who pointed it out and insisted on taking the pictures.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Bubble Gum Alley

Its a college town, with college kids so you would expect some kind of creative outlet. Although you walk down it with fear of touching either side and catching who knows what tragic disease, it is slightly cool if not down right-

Yep, they took the words right out of my mouth!

Friday, August 14, 2009


I blame it all my daughter really. I mean if she hadn’t wanted to volunteer I would have never had been in the animal shelter in the first place. So, really its all her fault...

....and anyway they kind of rope in from the beginning. Which means I was doomed from the start. As soon as you walk in the door, pictures of the sweet little faces stare at you, begging, pleading, for a chance to go home with you.

I didn’t even want to venture in the back where the kennels were. I was strong, I could do this. Pick up an application go home.

When did they start putting cages next to the volunteer flyers? Doomed.

When I get to the question - “why do you want to adopt this animal?” I have no answer. I am thinking “because its here and it wont stop staring at me” but somehow I don’t think that will work in my favor.

Flustered, I look at my daughter. She rolls her eyes and while counting on her hands what number this would bring to our animal menagerie she says “ Because your starting a zoo and need more for the exhibits?”

Yep it is definitely all her fault.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

The Damn Dog

Living in southern California is great. Being stuck at a desk all day there is nothing I love more then going outside at the end of the day and feeling the sun warm my soul. Living in this wonderful state allows me to that nearly 365 days of the year.

Finding the balance between what I have to do every day (work) and what I want to do (not work) is probably one the biggest reasons why we have our dining table outside our house- big enough for us all to sit come mealtime. I love when all the kids are home and we have our family dinners out under our big Magnolia tree and talk as the sun goes down and evening falls around us. Except for the damn dog.

Our neighbors have this insane, barking all the time, amazingly uncontrolled dog. I love animals. I hate this dog. There are two key times I truly hate this canine, the first is at 7:30 on a Sunday morning. MY Sunday morning. The one morning of the week were I know I can sleep in. At least I used to. Now I am awoken by this terrible animal and find myself threatening to throw anything I can find in its direction as I yell obscenities and curse our neighbors and their lack of discipline to their pet. It seems nothing quiets this pest.

The other key time that this dog rubs me raw is the blessed evenings when I can finally step away from my computer and listen to the children as they tell me anything and everything. Imagine a warm sunny day as the sun begins to descend over the horizon, a light breeze rustles past toying with your legs and ruffling your hair. No TV, no computer, video games, or phones. Just you and the the voice of the future. Don’t forget to imagine the laughter, oh how we love to laugh!

Just the other night as we all sat and fell into our evening routine this crazed beast started in on its homage of life. Now imagine within that perfect evening, a loud piercing howl (like a hound) but deep and then shrill (like a parrot) so as to hit all auditory nerves and species. Over and over and over again. We have all tried to quiet this beast. Yelled “NO” until we were blue in the face, prayed for a freak event to tear out its voice box and allow us some peace. But saying no to it just seems to alert him into high gear stepping up its quest into overdrive and double time.

I was so frustrated that evening that I just stared in its general direction (this of course a bad attempt to use the force and persuade the dog to shut the hell up) That is about the moment when my step son yelled at the top of his eleven year old voice “shut up!!”

I immediately began to talk to him for using that form of language. True, its not the harshest word, but for eleven it might as well have been. That is when I noticed my step son smile and stare right at me. I also noticed something else. Silence. The dog had actually stopped barking endlessly. Stopped. Done. Finished.

All this time we had gone hoarse from screaming “no” when we really should have been just a bit more graphic with our words. We all looked at him in awe and then one by one we began to laugh.

Tomorrow I plan on sitting with my step son and asking what else he knows that I am oblivious of. My daughter promises I will be amazed.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

The Little Things

I am sitting here. Waking up to the day and waiting for the coffee to kick in as I stare at my computer screen when I see it.

I kind of see it without really seeing it if you know what I mean. Then, I do see it right there in front of me.

Immediately I grab my camera and take this picture. Smiling so much my eyes squint shut. This is my favorite moment of the day.

...and it never occurs to me that maybe my housecleaning/dusting could use an evaluation.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Super Derby

The 2009 convertible RV.

Okay so its not really a convertible RV, It’s a picture taken at this years Orange County fair.

At the OC fair not only do we have a demolition derby, in an effort to constantly out do itself this year we had a SUPER derby. Apparently the first of its kind in California. Instead of old cars rescued from the junk yard that most people have long forgotten this derby consisted of class c mobile homes resurrected and ready to rumble.

Now I consider myself a pretty level headed person. I enjoy many things within a broad spectrum of things. I love tent camping with the family as much as I love staying at the Four Seasons with my husband. I enjoy a great NASCAR race almost as much as I love going to a great concert. I will try almost anything once, just ask my kids and they will relate the infamous Turkey Balls incident. So years ago when a friend suggested we head over to the demolition derby and check it out, I was all for the adventure. Over five years later it has become my sole reason for going to the fair.

I think its the pure recklessness of it though played out in a safe and secure setting. How many times have you watched a high speed chase only to be disappointed at the the lack luster ending or those “Worlds Wildest” television shows you find yourself watching almost mesmerized at all hours in the evening when sleep has abandoned you? Come on I can’t be the only one. I love watching, waiting, hoping to see a marvelous crash befall the crazy drivers. Well that is the demolition derby. Ten to Fourteen cars arrange themselves around a dirt arena where the sole purpose is to crash into each other till the last car running is declared the winner.

Except this year they pushed it up a notch and unveiled the Super derby... and I was thrilled, until we got there. What did I do? I shopped. and cried. a lot.

Here’s the thing- old cars that no one wants smashing and crumbling into twisted metal? cool! But take a running RV and destroy it when I would be perfectly happy to take it and use it for years to come traveling and creating endless wonderful memories with my family? Heartbreaking.

My husband knew he was in for trouble before it even started when I began comparing each RV on display in relation to how it would fit our family or after it started when I whined as the Grandmas Attic literally fell onto the ground and got run over by a competitor. I mean that was where I knew our kids would have loved to sit and watch the road before them as we sang “You are my sunshine” in the rounds as a family (okay maybe not quite), but it was a lot like taking a cool shiny toy holding out in front of an eager toddler and smashing it to bits while they watched and wailed. At one point it actually hurt to watch.

In the end nothing was left but a handful of truck flatbeds and a whole mess of shit to clean up...(sigh) I guess its the Four Seasons yet again this year.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Pork Butts

Its been a silly tradition for years now.

Although I only have the last three years on digital, I'd like to someday get the whole collection together. I still laugh every time I take the picture.


...and they are getting to an age where soon they may no longer want to embarrass themselves this way.



I sure hope not. 
What I would possibly do for fun then?

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

The Water Fight

I have the best kids in the world. Really. Hands down the best.

The other night we were all at the fair having a great time. It was a big group, my cousins had come for a visit and we had allowed each of the kids to bring a friend which of course meant they also brought a friend. We were a small cyclone meandering through the fair and rides.

It wasn’t intended to be that big, but somehow in addition to our already large group we became the dump all of all other parents at the fair that evening. We would simply run into adults we knew and then suddenly the kids where with us and the parents were nowhere to be seen. It was eery really if you thought about it. Though we didn’t mind horribly. It was the fair, and we were having fun watching the kids absorb it all in. besides it was Orange County and everyone had there own phones should they have needed to contact anyone.

One particular child was one of the youngest and most shy. A sibling to an older child and friend of our daughter. In the excitement this child had an accident. The worst kind, since all the other kids could obviously see the dark stain upon his previously dry jeans. My husband did his best to comfort and walk in front of the child, but it was inevitable that someone would notice.

That is about the time my cousin and kids began the water fight. I yelled at first unaware of their plan, I had just paid ten dollars for ONE bottle, throwing it on anyone was out of the question. I was rationing as it was, this bottle was going to be with me till Christmas!

I was explaining this when it dawned on me what they were doing. My cousins and children had positioned themselves in front of and behind this child who had had the accident. Then they were each tossing the water back and forth towards each other in a mock water fight.

Within minutes not only did ALL the children have splashes of water on their clothes, but the child with the stained pants could no longer be deciphered from the rest of the group who had been in on it unless you looked really close.

It was a simple act that left me prouder then any other parent could be.

Kids- you rock!!! (and I won’t really take the ten dollars out of your allowances.)

Friday, July 10, 2009

ORANGE COUNTY (picture Swarovsky crystals sparkling so much you need your sunglasses to gaze at it)

There are a plethora of wonderful advantages to living in Southern California. Not only do we enjoy summer all year long but we have great sandy beaches and lush green mountains that turn white and bring us snow within an hours drive.

Living in Orange County California takes that simple beauty and exploits it, injecting it full of Botox creating an over the top exaggeration of life.

Not only do we have malls with valet parking, we have GYMS with valet parking. You can drop your child off at day care, and just a short jaunt down the road you can also drop your dog off at their own day care- complete with lap pools and play group hour. In fact right next to the Sprinkles cupcake store, is the dog bakery where your pampered pooch can have a treat of their own.

With so many “enhancements” to everyday life, raising children in Orange County is even more difficult when it comes to keeping them grounded and teaching them what is normal. Normal to them could so easily be their own iphone, flat screen TV (in their room), individual Mac Notebooks, and like the bottomless fries at the local restaurant, endless itunes downloads. Because well you know everyone else has those things.

Except in our house, where if you want an iphone you have to pay for it yourself, we have one TV (for all four kids), and its embarrassingly in the living room, along with the computer and oh yeah itunes? better hope you did your chores and Mom likes the song, because its her password that you will need to get it on your ipod.

For a few years now I have wanted to take the kids on a pilgrimage to Mexico so they could work with kids there and see that their lives are a vast difference to many others. Of course the war on drugs (and subsequently war against Americans) and the Swine Flu have halted that plan for now. So its back to more creative parenting in showing them a valued life doesn’t mean a material life.

I understand that living here was our choice, that although every house matches the one next to it, across from it, and down the street from it, diversity could have been found much easier had we decided to live elsewhere. I'm also painfully aware that for us, as a blended family, it isn’t just about our house, but our ex’s houses as well and for now, at least, here is where we stay.

Still, I am not complaining about being here in the “OC” as with many things in life, its all how you play the game. After all with all the kids at their other homes this week, where else can someone make but just one quick call to the Poop Butler and have all their pets waste picked up for them?

Orange County, what a place.

Monday, July 6, 2009

The Trampoline

It was just a normal day. Busy as always.

Running around, spending more time

in the car then out of it.

You were all tired. Cranky. Hungry.

I am not sure who saw it first, but suddenly the three of you were on it.

Laughing. Taking turns. Smiling.

I pulled out the camera and fell into your glee. The sun went down, it was time to eat.

It was no longer a normal day. It was a great day.