Sunday, August 30, 2009

Left my heart...

Mr. Boy had never been on a plane, so we decided to skip town and head North to see my brother in San Francisco. Just Mr. Boy and myself! Mr. Boy LOVED being on a plane, and I was super impressed with Virgin America, who gave us super great service and went above and beyond to make Mr. Boy's first trip a success.My sister in law is amazing and has a super cool job working for ILM. She gave us the superstar tour, she even arranged for stormtroopers & Boba Fet to geet us. Ok, so maybe we just lucked into arriving when they were shooting a promo. We saw all sorts of cool film props... These are the real deal, people. Star Wars obsessed Mr. Boy was in heaven.
Can you believe this is the view from someone's office? My brother... I adore him. We have a lot in common other than our looks. When I was sixteen and in the midst of teen angst, he took me under his wing and was my "soft place to fall". And for that I'm incredibly grateful. He spoils me rotten, always has. For most of my life he has introduced me as "My Baby Sister", I don't even think he knows that he says it. Mr. Boy loved going over the Golden Gate. We had learned the history of the bridge a few months back, and it's something we always associate with where Mr. Boy's cousin lives. Seriously, again... Can you imagine you are playing at the local kids museum and *THIS* is the view from the playground? I love it... and I love this little nephew of mine. No, really, I love this little guy. He is the life of the party and has this GIANT vocabulary. I wanted to take him and his older brother home with me.My brother is an all star BBQ chef and an outstanding host. He made us the most amazing meals, and I came home well fed and rejuvenated. Mr. Boy tried all sorts of adventurous foods, like crawfish. My brother is a crazy talented musician. Mr. Boy wants to be a rock star just like him.

Fine by me! I hope you grow up to be just like my big brother. Rock on little one!

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Favorite Things Swap

A while ago I signed up for a Favorite Things Swap on a blog I enjoy reading. This was the perfect thing for me to fulfill my secret desire. I wish to be Oprah for the sole reason (well other than her wealth) to be able to share my favorite things to a large fanbase who is excited by something as revolutionary as Mr. SevenHands. Maybe I need to make my "Top Faves" a blog regular for the benefit of the 6 of you who read my blog. Anyway, I'm rambling.
So the deal was, I pack up my 3 or so favorite things and send them off to some blogger in a faraway land. She sends me back her favorite items. I got a little carried away and couldn't narrow it down to three things, but that's okay. Here is what I sent: my favorite magazines, Real Simple & a subscription to Family Fun. My favorite scent Bath & Body Works Coconut Lime Verbana. Reusable bags because I can't live without them. My favorite Book, The Good Earth by Pearl S. Buck. Mini Nail Polishes with names like "Spank" and "Divine Diva Pink." I love these nail polishes because they are cheap and come in amazing colors. I included cocktail umbrellas, because my kids will eat anything if it looks festive. They won't touch watermelon, but I put an umbrella in it, voila it's suddenly as tasty as candy. I included our favorite family recipes and my all time favorite Kitchen Tool: Fridgesmart by Tupperware. We love lots of farm fresh produce, but it doesn't last as long as the grocery store produce. These containers keep fruit and veggies fresh for a long time, especially berries.
Today I got my package from Mandee of DoverFamilyCircus
She sent an awesome package containing a ton of goodies. My kids snatched the books right out of my hands, because they are from one of our favorite series. My favorite book was Mr. Bump growing up. The kids also snatched up the orange pail with Disney Magnets & Coke pencils and the Nativity is currently nestled in AK's hand while she sleeps. They are total theifs! I love the Journal and the Journal Jar, along with the Word Fill In book which should help keep my brain super sharp. The cardmaking kit and photo album are just my style, along with the Home decoration.
My Favorite Favorite Favorite is the a collection of Mandee's favorite recipes. I've already marked a full weeks worth of recipes to try from her book. I LOVED the package I received and I had the best time doing it.
PS For extra credit... can you spot the Star Wars action figure that Mr. Boy snuck into the 2nd picture? I didn't notice it, until I posted the pic. Sneaky!

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Hoarding some good info...

Back in June, I was asked to speak at a "ladies night" at our church. The topic was fun & cheap things to do this summer. I am no expert on this topic, however I heavily relied on internet chatter about cool places to go. I prepared a hefty sized handout, with suggestions for people of all ages. I passed it out to the ladies in attendance and then handed out to the kids classmates. Last week I bumped into one of the mom's in Mr. Boy's class, who told me she copied it and passed it out to her friends. She urged me to post it on my blog... so I am thanks to googledocs.
In the google doc, you can find all sorts of good stuff to do in the summer and all year round. Like Strawberry picking, which we did...
We also took in a $1 movie, Star Wars The Clone Wars, which was worth every penny! There's also info on holiday traditions and fun stuff to do at home, for you non OC residents Such as a hunting for Leprechauns on St. Patrick's Day. Or coming up with your own family holiday. Our's is Bastille Day, a French National Holdiay. Enjoy!

Sunday, August 23, 2009

I had a vision...

There is a small problem at Chateau du la Francaise. Legos and children's toys are taking over my life. I need some new storage options! Mr. Man keeps threatening hideous shelving and some sort of database to find what you are looking for. Then the heavens opened, and I saw this by the side of the road with a "Free" sign posted on it. I pulled over, gave it a quick inspection, and drove right home to pick up Mr. Man's Muscles. This thing is solid wood, and it weighs as much as an elephant. When I pulled up next to it, he said, "Really? I mean.. really? This?" I proclaimed, "Trust Me!!" We got it into the garage and I said, "It's going to be awesome, we can store 2 billion legos in here." He just politely said, "I dont' really have the vision yet, but I trust you." I showed my neighbor who just smiled thru gritted teeth and said, "Wow. I think it will be handy." Truthfully, it looks like something you'd find in the Regal Beagle, with Jack, Chrissy, and Janet. Maybe that zany Mr. & Mrs. Roper might have one in their place. However, people... I knew this had potential, I had a vision that it would be gorgeous and glam. It cost about $15 for new hardware, and I already had the paint. (Mr. Man claims I paint everything black. We all know once you go black.... ) Mr. Man's jaw dropped when he saw it and claimed I pulled a switcharoo on him. The neighbor gushed, and it really does hold 2 billion legos. I'm pretty proud of myself... hence the bragging post.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Eurostroller: A brief history

Once upon a time, there was a fair lady, a handsome man, and their gorgeous boy. The fair lady loved strollers, a strange love affair indeed. However, a good stroller made for one less hassle when out and about town with a wee one. Then word arrived that a beautiful babe would be arriving. The lady researched double strollers high and low, but just like Red Riding Hood, this one was too big, that one was too heavy, and the other was too bulky. A late night bout of insomnia and a very basic understanding of European love languages landed the lady at some online European stroller shoppes. Euro-mommies raved about this double umbrella and it looked unlike anything I had seen in the US. As luck would have it, my insomnia allowed me to make a transatlantic call to a German Kinder Shoppe during their business hours. The following day I wired a bunch of Euro's over to them. (Shipping was more than the actual stroller.) I tracked my package over the following few weeks. While it made the long journey over the ocean, I hatched a business plan. IF the stroller was fabulous, I would bring it to the US. There wasn't a single stroller like it on the market, and everyone I talked to about double strollers, wished for something sleeker, with better steering, and that didn't consume the trunk.

It arrived, and Mr. Man, my brother, and a few moms all said, "You've got to go for this." I had several conference calls at 2am with the manufacturer, and during the day I spent many hours on the phone learning import laws, tariffs, and what LTL meant. (Long Term Logistics) Fed-ex became my best friend and this truck would unload strollers while my neighbors looked on with curiosity as we weren't really zoned for semi's.
Mr. Man & I worked on this together, he rearranged the garage to accommodate the strollers. He supported me every step of the way, cheered every success, and helped me troubleshoot when I needed it. Pillow talk was whispers of logistics, marketing, etc. There was even one night where I woke up and couldn't get back to sleep. I thought Mr. Man was sleeping, he rolled over and said, "I'm wondering, if we could cut down on shipping costs if we...." I loved it. I loved having this project to work on together.
Eurostroller came at a time where Mr. Man & I were still mourning the passing of his dad from ALS, and working through the adoption process waiting for AK to arrive. Along with that came the constant thoughts of "Will everything fall into place for her arrival?" We were fumbling around trying to find a new normal. Eurostroller, kept our hands and minds busy until we could find our way.

I loved working with a product that I loved, and doing something that was so far out of my comfort zone. In August of 2005, AK arrived! And we continued to move forward with Eurostroller. When AK was struggling to thrive, I started to feel s-t-r-e-t-c-h-e-d very thin. Something had to give, and Eurostroller was going to need a serious time investment to take it to the next level. There was not a guarantee success. It wasn't a difficult choice to hand off Eurostroller to someone else, I had a sweet little tiny babe to tend to. It was a fun chapter of my life and maybe I'll revisit something similar to it later on. The thing I miss the most about it was the license to say, "Oh, pardon Mr. Man? Oh, you see the new stroller I bought, yes.. um... well that was for... uh.. research. I'm wondering if we need to look for an alternative to the urban jogger." To this day I still have an odd obsession for strollers.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

The Hundred Dresses

I am constantly struggling trying to figure out how to raise these kids to be grateful without spoiling them. It is hard not to spoil them. I've been trying to seek out service opportunities for the kids to participate in. Our church rolled out "The Hundred Dresses" A Humanitarian Project. A partnership with the amazing organization Mothers Without Borders.Inspired by the Caldecott winning book The Hundred Dresses, the woman of our congregation would make 100 of these t-shirt style dresses to be sent over to Uganda. This was the perfect project for our family. We scored a bunch of these bright orange t-shirts on clearance and a handful of other colors. AK picked out the fabric, and Mr. Boy pressed the sewing pedal on the machine for each and everyone. We made a bunch of them, and I showed the kids where the dresses would be going on a map. While the sewing machine hummed, we talked about these sweet girls who would recieve them. We talked about how the stitches had to be strong because they would be worn often and washed in rivers or on rocks. We discussed what it would be like to live in Uganda. The kids loved working on this project and tommorrow the last set of dresses will be delivered and by Christmas they will be handed out to some deserving girls halfway around the world.
Anyone have any brilliant ideas on how to raise grateful children?

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Leaky Brains?

On the way home from swimming at one of our favorite pal's pool:

Mr. Boy: Mom, um.. if you get water in your brain... will it wash all your thoughts away when the water comes out of your ears?

Moi: No sweetie, your thoughts are safe.

Mr. Boy: Phew, I thought my brain was leaking all my good ideas.

Monday, August 10, 2009

I love him and my life.

It was fourteen, yes, fourteen years ago today, that Mr. Man looked at me and pronounced before God, family, and friends that he wanted to spend forever with me. On several occasions I have looked at photos or videos of that 'girl' he married and said, "What on earth did you see in me?" I shudder watching myself on my wedding video, because Ugh.. I was so young and talked like a valley girl. And wow, I was so giggly. However, I am grateful he saw the potential in me.

Fast forward... several years, two dogs, two kids, home with a white picket fence... it's all good. We laughed, we loved, we lived. Things have not been perfect, nor have they been devastating. *knock on wood* There is no great story to tell, or is there? There is something about milestones that makes me reflect over the passing years. Last year, things were very different than they are now. I feel like I was in Coma last year at this time. Going through the motions, but not really living. Definitely not enjoying or embracing the life I wanted to live. I felt like I had way too much on my plate. When in reality, I was trying to control and plan everything more than neccessary, thinking that would make it easier, if I could just manage it all. Last year at this point, I was seriously contemplating some drastic options, wondering what would make me happier. I felt like I had been sinking in quicksand for a long time, and it was about to cover my head. I was suffocating. In the end, I got to the point where I was so tired. So tired of trying to control everything. Keeping everything neatly organized and tidy in my head. Tired of being "in charge". I decided to relinquish my deeply rooted control issues, and let go.No really.. I let it go. I took a very zen-like approach to everything. I stopped fretting over details, image, perceptions, and how things should be. It is.... what it is. Accept, embrace, move on. It's been a conscience effort. I have to take a deep breath and think for a second how to react to a situation. I stopped saying "No" right off the bat when the kids asked for something. I was saying No all the time for silly reasons to the kids. I was so desperate to feel in control, meanwhile I was making everyone feel stifled.Magical things started happening in my life. My kids were happier, there were less tantrums, less fighting... we did more fun things. I was "present" not fretting about how things should be done or the mess that was being made... just living in the moment. I started to act silly, and made my children laugh often. No more to do list a mile long. The weird thing is, things still got done. There just wasn't the same pressure to get it done NOW, and so much of my to do list was pointless. It was about trying to upkeep an image more than anything. It didn't have to be done. Random people noticed changes, I got comments "You are so much more.. playful." "I had no idea you were funny." "You are much mellower than I rememberl" I learned that people had been referring to me as "Wenchy" instead of Wendy behind my back. OUCH. Mr. Man, who I had pushed away so much over the last year while I slipped into my, "I'm trying to control it all, but failing" coma, started to notice the change. He had been on edge for so long, not sure what would stress me out more. We started to laugh more together. Instead of fretting, I flirted. Instead of critique, I complimented. If he took the kids out to the zoo, and they came home muddy, I high fived them all while giving them shampoo mohawks. At the end of the day, I laid down on the couch next to him and watched a movie with him. We started talking more, fighting less. I listened more than I talked for the first time in my life. And we fell in love all over again. Over the last year, I have laughed more than I have in the last few years combined. I'm doing a lot less, overall. I am shocked, completely and utterly shocked, at how much the little details don't matter. No ONE cares about the details of my life, and whether the dishes are done right after the meal or at the end of the day or even the next day. Emails can be answered later on, they don't have to be addressed the minute they arrive. Saturdays are a day we love to hang out as a family, they aren't a day that I try to cram accomplish a million tasks because Mr. Man is home and can watch the kids.

It's good... it's REALLY good. Doing less, living more. And on the occasion of this anniversary, I can say I am truly happy. And I'm grateful for a man who has stuck with me through thick and thin. Who also had the courage to say, "I love you, and I'm not sure how to help." I'm grateful for the friends who had the courage to say, "I'm concerned." even though they knew I might push them away, because I didn't want anyone to see or know that I didn't have everything under control. I'm grateful that I opened up and showed the world I'm vulnerable. It's scary posting this, but I'm not perfect, so my blog shouldn't be an image of perfection. I want my children to know, that life is fabulous, but it's not perfect. No need to pretend that it is.

Happy Anniversary Mr. Man. This year.. instead of a gift... I shed all the baggage, stepped out my tidy little compartmentalized box, and underneath it all found that fun girl that had a zest for life, she's a bit giggly, kind of like the girl in that wedding video.

Sunday, August 09, 2009

Farewell Three, Hello Four

Dearest AK, On the occasion of your Fourth Birthday, I sit to write you a love note. I am overwhelmed by the tremendous changes that have transpired this year. You started preschool and attended the same school as your brother. You were together in the afternoons and are such good friends. I hope that continues throughout your lifetime. During school you discovered friends, and developed a close bond with several girls in your class. You greeted each other with hugs and kisses each day, and complimented each other on your dresses.
Which reminds me, your school wants all the kids, girls included to play and play hard. We bought darling jeans and tops, all of which you refused to wear. Every morning for several months you and I would disagree on clothing. You would insist on a dress, while I waved several pants and shirts in front of you. We were fighting every morning, until after a few months I relented. You have worn a dress almost every day, since then I can count on one hand the times you wore pants. Don't get me wrong AK, you know I love a good dress just as much as you. I cannot resist buying you cute dresses, and currently there are 52 dresses crammed in your teeny tiny closet. Which seems like a lot, but you change your clothes and shoes at least three times a day. I just hope that you don't let "looking pretty" get in the way of having fun and seizing opportunities. However, the mud & paint stains on your clothes let me know that I have nothing to worry about. Your current favorite pasttime is looking for bugs and digging.Your language has come a long way. You went from a few words to speaking long monologues. Your favorite is to tell me a story that always starts with, "Once upon a time there was an old lady who lived in a castle." This year in school you were eager to share all things you were learning about. All year you were always dissappointed on the days that were not school days, and in the Spring we put you in school every day. You loved it! You are so social and want to be with your friends all the time. When people ask you what you want to be when you grow up, you say, "Bigger". Our favorite phrase that you say is, "Oh he's so doot!" when you see something cute and little. We love that on your school report that you had to do, your one wish if you could wish for anything was to have, "Pink Hair". You love Pink more than anything. Your favorite books are Posey Prefers Pink and Pinkalicious. You are smitten with the Disney Princesses and thanks to your Auntie Laura, you might just have every Princess product available. However, all that girlyness is balanced by your brothers influence. You sing the Star Wars theme song all the time and your princesses often engage in space travel and fights with the dark side. We love the balance!We have big hopes and dreams for you this year. You enter pre-K this year, and we hope you will learn and grow academically. We love that you know a handful of sight words because of your brother. You learn a lot from observing him, just last week you taught yourself to dive in the pool after watching him. AK, I want you to know that you can do anything you want to if you're willing to learn. We live in the most amazing place, and even though many days it appears to grown ups that the world is falling apart, you still have every opportunity to be whatever you want, to do whatever you want, and know that Mom & Dad are right here ready to support you. We'll even help you dye your hair pink, if that is your greatest wish.
On this day, your dad and I can't help but reflect on your beginnings. For two weeks, we woke up each day to get the report on your amazing birthmom who has in the hospital helping you get ready to be born. You came early, anxious to get this party started. We had breakfast with your birthparents one morning, and told them, "Yep, we are all ready for the baby." Daddy bought a new safe car for you to ride in, and I showed them pictures of your crib and a closet ful of onesies. You heard that and decided to come that night. However, your spirit might have been ready, but your body wasn't. So a whole medical team held you off for 16 more days. Long enough for your body to get ready. I remember on the day you were born, the nurse told me, "Baby Girl is coming today! She's ready!" We couldn't stop dancing around the house. Oh that glorious moment when your birthmom placed you in my arms. Our whole life together flashed before my eyes. The next day on our 10th wedding anniversary we got to take you home. Worlds Best Gift. When the nurse came to check you out to us, I broke down into tears of gratitude. You were going home, to our home.... I was so grateful. We spent a lot of time keeping you healthy over the next year, a team of people oversaw your growth and cheered every milestone. We do not take your health for granted, we are so grateful for your healthy toddler years, may that continue a lifetime.
We hope that this is your best year ever. We love you!
Mommy & Daddy

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Ya Ya Afternoon

Best thing about living here in sunny southern California is the vacationing visitors that pass through here. We love having our friends come to visit. I'm not kidding when I say all of you are welcome at the Chateau. My pal Bob came to visit and brought along this delicious wee one. She was just so lovable and I want to rub that round head for luck, it is perfect. I bet she'll grow up and look just like her mom, lucky girl.... her mom looks like a real life Barbie. Bob's kids love Star Wars, so it was light saber fights galore. And Stef's kids are in touch with their sci fi side, which means they aren't afraid to pick up a lightsaber and show that the powers of the force reside within them. We pulled out the waterslide.... which meant that the three of us... got to hang out and chat while we threw snacks at the kids. I love the Ya Ya's (Booboo & Nettie were absent and were dearly dearly dealy missed) There is something about being with people that know you, and you can be 100% open with that is just as refreshing as a vacation. I know I could tell them anything, and they would love me just the same. Also, I love the Petit Ya Ya's, I love hearing about their successes and talking to them. I love spoiling them when their mom isn't looking. I genuinely want to hang out with the kids and talk to them. Bottom line: whatever time I spend with any or all of them... it's always too brief. If I win the lotto, I'm building a YaYa compound with a handful of big houses, lots of hired help, and lightsabers for everyone.