Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Slice of Life

Right after we moved in, we bought a salt lick and mounted it on a tree on the hillside thinking we would have a herd of deer addicted to our salt lick.  According to my worthless deer book, Salt Lick's are the equivalent of deer crack. Our deer, don't follow the deer norm, and the Salt Lick looked untouched.  A few weeks ago Mr. Boy and I were setting out some deer chow for our mommy deer.  Those poor mommy deer, they are dealing with bickering fawns all day long.  Not only that, they can't seem to keep on top of the housekeeping, and dread taking the fawns out to run errands. Those fawns turn into little devils when it's time to go to the grocery store.
  Ahem... maybe I'm projecting a bit.  Anyway, Mr. Boy and I were up by the Salt Lick tree, and I dared Mr. Boy to lick the "still looks new salt lick".  He double dog dared me, and next thing you know we are both licking the salt lick and falling over with laughter.  Last week I found this buck going to town on the deer lick, which immediately left a bad taste in my mouth.  I'm afraid I've ingested deer cooties, and if I sprout antlers, we will know why. Apparently, the salt lick wasn't going unused, they just last a really really long time.  
Mr. Boy turned 8, which means he started Cub Scouts. His first activity was the pinewood derby, where we learned that it is serious business.  Needless to say, Mr. Boy is hooked on scouts.  Last night, they had a "Pack Meeting" where boys were handed awards for activities they had passed off.  I guess they don't do merit badges at this age yet.  
Mr. Boy was enthralled with the pins and belt loops, and said, "I'm going to earn a ton of them, Mom."   When we got home, he proceeded out the back gate and up the hillside.  When I asked what he was doing he replied, "Leave me alone Mom,  I'm Cub Scouting.  This is for my hiking merit badge. Oh, and Mom, do we have a gun, I think I'll do my hunting badge too."
One of the things I love about the Chalet, is the freedom it provides my children.  The neighbors are all a close knit group and raised their children together. (All their kids are now grown and my age!)   The neighbors have welcomed us and love my kids. We often joke this neighborhood came with a cul de sac full of grandparents who spoil our kids.  It is not uncommon for us to have impromptu neighborhood gatherings and I love it. 

Yesterday at 2 o'clock, just as I was getting ready to leave to run errands,  the doorbell rings. It is our neighbor, dressed in a swimsuit who says, "I was told there was a swim party at 2pm?"  AK comes running out in her swimsuit and says, "HOORAY! You came!" She grabs his hand and says, "Mom, for our party we would like Root Beer and licorice."   So, we all put on swimsuits, drank soda, ate licorice and had a swim party, because what else do you do when people are expecting a pool party. 

Leave it to AK, to decide while roaming the front yard to spice up the day with an impromptu party.  Our neighbor arrived home to be greeted by AK, who announced that we were having a party at 2pm, and would he please come.  No one can resist AK and her kryptonite smile, so he blew off his afternoon to do list to join us. It was sweet, although a little awkward, when he realized the party was just for him.  One of the things AK has taught me, is that there are ways to make the day more fun.

Monday, July 25, 2011

I am not a baker, but my kids love me anyway.

 I can not bake, it's just not one of my talents, as evidenced by the picture below.  It was the day of Mr. Boy's 8th Birthday party and two hours prior to the guests arrival, this was "cake wreck" I was dealing with.  I made the cake myself, can you tell? 
Mr. Boy wanted a "Harry Potter" birthday complete with a broomstick cake.  We've spent the lazy summer twilight hours watching Cake Boss, Cupcake Wars, and Ace of Cakes.  I had the genius idea to make a broomstick out of a Twix bar and some melted Starburst. In my head it looked like one of those cakes you see on TV.  Once I actually executed my broomstick,  I started to panic. The cake was falling apart and I just added my "pièce de résistance" and it looked rather phallic, if you know what I mean. *wink*
 Mr. Man came in and tried to rescue it, but nothing could save it except for a trip to the bakery for a replacement. 
 We bought a replacement, but decided we should go ahead and put a Harry Potter Spin on the disaster, so we called it Dobby's Cake Creation.   
 We also served Pumpkin Juice, which all the kids tried and loved.  It was really peach lemonade.
 Mr. Boy really wanted a Harry Potter Party, but we just had spent a trillion dollars on the pool, so we had a Harry Potter Pool Party.  I even hired a lifeguard for peace of mind, which was genius.  Lucky for us, one of the many hats Aunt Cinnamon wears, happens to be "Lifeguard", plus she only requires cake as payment.
 I learned a valuable lesson, kids will eat cake, no matter how it looks.  They all preferred Dobby's cake over the pretty bakery cake.
 All the kids were smitten with Sandy,  she conned them into all the leftovers. 
 On the day of his actual birthday, we took  Mr. Birthday Boy to Whimsic Alley to be fitted for a wand. The wandmaker insisted he also needed glasses.  We mortgaged the house and succumbed to the pressure to outfit our Jr. Harry Potter. 
At 9:01pm, the exact moment he turned eight, we had cake and opened presents.
And what did Mr. Birthday Boy get?  Harry Potter Legos of course!

Saturday, July 09, 2011

Dear Mr. Boy, Now you are Eight!

Dear Mr. Boy, 
On your birthday, I sit to write you a note to tell you how much I love you.  Today we watched a video your dad and I made three days after you were born.  In that video, we talked about the miraculous way you entered our lives.  You came via a birth mother that we love very much and give thanks for every single day.  I tell you this every year, but the doctor said you would arrive between 6-8pm, but no later than 9pm. You had to come into the world on your own terms at 9:01PM. This has been such an indicator of what the rest of your life would be like.  You are a born leader, anxious to lead and do things on your terms.  Your fun personality, naturally draws people to you and each and every day you make me laugh out loud.  We have so much fun together and I love being with you.
Last year on your birthday,  we didn't even have a kitchen to bake your cake! We were hunkered down in two rooms, and you often woke up to one of the Juan's hammering outside your window, or even one time, in your room.  You went with the flow, and for that I am grateful.  Now the house is done, and you love having your own room with a desk for the first time in your life.  You begged for a Star Wars room for two years, and then you discovered Harry Potter.   Just as the last set of Star Wars pillow shams arrived, you declared that you were all done with Star Wars, and you wanted a Harry Potter room.   We have tried to teach you over the year, you can be loyal to more than one thing, but it's a concept you struggle with. You can love Harry Potter and Star Wars, and the world won't fall apart.  Your loyalty is so admirable Mr. Boy, and I know it will serve you well as you grow up.
This year, we got serious about Sports and signed you up for Soccer and Baseball, and did sport type camps.  You are naturally talented at sports, and it has been a dream come true for your father.  When we sat with our social worker to discuss the traits and characteristics we were hoping for in a child, I said, I wanted a healthy baby.  Your dad said, "I want an athlete!" You have athletic roots from both your bio parents, and as I watch you learn a new sport and quickly succeed, I thank the stars above for your athletic talent.

You are strong willed and a born leader, and not afraid to speak your mind.  Learn from your mama, learn to bite your tongue.  During one of your baseball games, you tagged a player out and proceeded to smack talk the player as he walked back to the dug out.  You even threw down your glove, as you started to go at it with the player. He had provoked you a bit, and  I sat in the bleachers and watched you, mortified.  Deep down, I knew you got that fiesty spirit from me, but one of the best lessons I ever learned is knowing when to keep your mouth shut.  It's a tough lesson, and that was a great opportunity to teach you the basic concepts. I look back on that experience and laugh now, because it is just so typical of your personality.  You don't back down, and you don't take no easily for an answer.  It's a tough thing as a mom, to learn to teach you "No means No", without breaking the persistance and drive that is so innate in your personality.  I remind you again, that as your parents, we are doing the best we can.  There is no instruction manual for kids, and every child is so different.  I realized most parents have NO IDEA what they are doing, but we are all trying our best.  Here is hoping it's good enough, if not, you can either go to college or use that money for therapy, your choice.
You and AK...  *sigh* You are the best of friends and worst of enemies.  You annoy her to no end, and she annoys you right back. All day long you will complain about your pesky sister, but at the same time you are her biggest fan and will protect her at any cost.  She is lucky to have you, and you are lucky to have her.  I hope when you read this as an adult, you will remember that your sister is your most loyal friend.  She has such a deep and unconditional love for you, and a big heart.  You are both fun-seekers and I am hoping that when you are grown, you will travel the world together.   You both have a zest for life, and quest to try new things, I know that both of you will succeed in life. 

Mr. Boy, a few weeks ago you attended a Soccer Camp led by professional soccer players from the UK.  I watched you play and talked to one of the other dad's there.  He sighed, "I just don't think my son realizes just how amazing this opportunity is."  This sums up exactly my fear of raising you in Los Angeles.  Do you realize just how fabulous your life is?  I know I remind you of this all the time.  Living here provides us with so many opportunities very few kids get the chance to experience.  Not everyone gets the chance to see all the props from the Harry Potter movies, visit movie sets, swim all year round, learn soccer from the Pro's, and know famous actors only as, "Pete's Dad". Don't forget to be humble and be grateful as you grow up.  I know you hear this 100 times a day from me, "Mr. Boy, Be nice, Be grateful." but these traits of a true hero. 
I am excited for the upcoming year for you. On Sunday, you will be baptized in our church and we keep talking about how from that point on, when you do wrong, it will "count".  This thought terrifies you, as you are still learning self control. You complain, that it's hard to be nice to AK all the time. Mr. Boy, I have no doubt you will be just fine and grow into a man with good character.  At the heart of your exuberant personality is a heart of gold.  You care deeply for those you love and are compassionate to those around you.  
All day long you ask questions, you never stop.  Your mind is always going a mile a minute.  You ask the most thought provoking questions and often times I have to look up the answers.  Most of them are about Harry Potter these days, but they are also about life and other major events.  You are fascinated with Egypt and the Titanic, and we often have discussions centered around, "Would you rather this or that?"  Your questions exhaust me, but I often am reminded it is just a sign of an intelligent and inquisitive mind.

Mr. Boy, on your birthday, I am reminded again, I am the luckiest mom in the world.  Each day I gave thanks for you and your sister.  Both of you, have changed who I am for the better.  You have taught me to be nice, be more grateful and to be more patient.  Hopefully, I can teach you those same attributes over your lifetime, if not, your children will teach you them, I am sure of that.

I love you.

Love, Mom.

Friday, July 08, 2011

Reason #1,789 why I love him

Reason #1,789 why I love Mr. Man, he is a great dad.   
He asks his daughter to dance at a local street fair, and because she loves it, he doesn't stop until she is all danced out.

Thursday, July 07, 2011

Santa Barbara, The Place Where I Belong

You can take me down,
You can show me your home, 
Not the place where you live, 
But the place where you belong. 
"Something to Say" ~Toad the Wet Sprocket~

Oh Santa Barbara, how I love thee. The Pueblo architecture, gorgeous ocean, and mountain views.  Even though the Chalet feels like home, so does Santa Barbara.  This is the place where I grew up.  Just as I drive past Summerland on the 101 Fwy, I feel a peace as though my heart is at home.
We spent the afternoon at the beach, where I let a whole lot of my grief flow out to the ocean.  It was a very healing afternoon, and when I left the beach, I left a good portion of my sadness and depression behind.  I felt 10 times better and the spring returned to my step.  We visited a favorite hangout for dinner, and the food replenished my soul.   I went to bed that night, and woke up the next day and felt like my old self had returned. I was full of energy and life.  Santa Barbara has always been my "healing place."  I have come there before with a heavy heart and felt like I could leave my troubled mind behind, returning refreshed. 
We fed the giraffes, and I have never been able to get over the luxurious life of a giraffe at the Santa Barbara Zoo.  They have a world class view, that people pay millions for.  I was excited to see the lion and lioness that I saw two years ago.  

The lioness was without her mate last time due to an illness, they had taken the lion to the vet station on the other side of the zoo.  The lioness roared and paced, anxious to be with her mate.  This agitated lioness reminded me of myself and Mr. Man.  I came back from that trip and said, "Mr. Man, it's time to get serious about a house in Los Angeles."  It was sweet to see the Lion and Lioness sleeping next to each other on a rock.  I couldn't get a good pic, and they were so sweet, I didn't want to disturb them.

The Santa Barbara Zoo has the coolest hill, covered in Astroturf, meant for sliding and surfing down.  I love it, and am starting to wonder if maybe we should cover some of the hills behind our house with astroturf and make it into a big slide. 

Mr. Boy was a natural after a few attempts. 
We always hit Palazzio's for dinner while in Santa Barbara.   
The kids always gobble up the garlic rolls, by the dozen, and the pasta is to die for. We had rousing discussions over pasta, "Would you rather be shot with an arrow, or attacked by a shark?"  "Would you rather be stung by a jellyfish or a stingray?"  Even the waiters weighed in, and "Would you rather... "  has become a favorite dinner game in our house. I never can get enough of their food, and I brought home a cooler full of pasta and rolls for Mr. Man.
It's become tradition to photograph the children with their zoo souvenir on these steps. 
AK wanted a baby cheetah that she calls, "Cheeto" and of course Mr. Boy picked a snowy owl that looked just like Hedwig from Harry Potter.
The kids loved hearing stories about when I lived in Santa Barbara. I told them all about taking Sailing Lessons in this harbor, and how one time I had to be rescued by the Coast Guard. Or about the time I dated a boy who was not very polite, and how I contemplated jumping off the wharf just to be able to end the date.
There were lots of moments of contemplation.  Mr. Boy and I both agree this is the most beautiful spot in all of California.  AK says, "It's almost as pretty as Disneyland."
I can't even tell you how much healing I feel took place during this trip.  I was able to really enjoy the kids and we laughed a lot.
I loved watching AK walk around with her enormous hat and cowgirl boots.  She later became "Santa Barbara-fied" and traded them in for flip flops.
Mr. Boy loved swimming in the ocean, and learned to body surf.  He shares my passion for the beach.
AK is growing up into a gorgeous girl.  Her laugh melts my heart.
When it came time to leave Santa Barbara, I came back a different person than when I had left.  Even Mr. Man noticed it and said, "You look all shiny and new!  I'm so glad to see the girl I know and love back." 
Sometimes, all you need is a trip back home to renew the soul.

Wednesday, July 06, 2011

Beach Therapy

My mother passed away a little over four months ago and I can't figure out why it is still so hard. Why do I feel a sharp pain in my chest every time I stumble across her handwriting or a forgotten picture. Why is my grief still so raw after four months?

Last week I had to peel myself out of bed each day after a hearty pep talk with my inner self. I have to remind myself to laugh, find joy, and create fun each day.  This is not me and it's a not my normal mode of operation. I asked Mr.Man, "Is it post party blues?"  He said bluntly,"No, it's your grief, you can't stifle it with projects anymore." I didn't like that answer so I gave him the cold shoulder.

A chance encounter with an acquaintance, gave me a very candid, "the sooner you face this head on, the better off you'll be" pep talk. I was flabbergasted. How dare she say that to my face... but deep down, I wondered, is my grief really that obvious.

Then came my annual summer trip to Santa Barbara, I was being very wishy washy. Should I even go? I didn't want to put forth the effort....but why?
Then it hit me, Santa Barbara is filled with memories of mom. I can't do it.  It is too hard to go back there. Memories of my youth spent in that city are interwoven with memories of my mom.

I stayed wishy washy until the very last minute and then, I took a deep breath yelled to the kids, "Pack your bags!" And we left.

We hit my favorite beach that afternoon. While the kids played, I stuck my feet in the sand and did something I haven't done in a long time. I talked to God and to my grief and said, "This is so hard. I don't want to do this anymore.  I don't want to grieve or be sad anymore."
I'm stuck in the somewhere in the anger or depression phase of grieving.   I just can't do it anymore. I am so mad and sad at so many aspects of the last few months. And what has all that anger and sadness produced? Nothing, except for a killer reflex of trying to stifle it.

My mom firmly believed that sitting on the beach for a few hours was just like attending therapy sessions. I am not sure if that works for me, but I know I felt the oceans healing power. With my toes in the water I imagined all my anger dripping out my toes and into the ocean. I am trying to let it go. I was sad and angry my mom died too fast, too young, too soon. But there is nothing I can do, what is done is done. I am not in charge of this world and I have to live my life.  I have to accept the things I cannot control. So, I have to move on, and honor my mom by living my very best life.  A life filled with the vibrancy she bestowed upon me.
Plus I don't have time for all this sad moping, I've got to show the kids my favorite hangouts from my youth and teach them how to body surf.

Tuesday, July 05, 2011

Independence Day

 Last year we celebrated the Fourth of July, by sticking a flag in the mountain of dirt. 
There were piles of rubble every where you looked, that pile of rubble is my old kitchen.
We came home from our classy dinner at some local fast food place to find the neighborhood alive with parties. Our neighbors were all hosting parties, and invited us to join them.  We had no idea that just behind our house, the city launches a firework show.  We joined the Neighbor-steins for a viewing party. 
This year was much different.  We swam and played around our house. The whole neighborhood was out setting up for their parties.  We weren't trapped behind the Big Construction Fence and we could holler back and forth, while I did some gardening.  "Sure, I have some folding chairs! Can I borrow an egg?" Can you spot the new plants under the kitchen window?  I was so excited to plant a flower bed, but can't believe how tiny the plants are.  I have a problem with concept of scale, when it comes to design.
This picture is classic AK & Mr. Boy.  AK with her darling little dress, wearing flaming dragon shoes.  She is totally dialed into her inner punk. Mr. Boy is wearing his super skinny jeans, holding his Harry Potter book, and looks annoyed to have me talking to him.  That pretty much sums up his attitude these days. 
After dinner at Uncle Mikes, we decided not to mess with tradition and went over to the Neighborstein's house to watch the fireworks.  After the show, we met up with the neighbors and their friends in the cul de sac and watched the shows going off all over the city.  The sky was dotted with fireworks everywhere.  Have I mentioned how much I love my house lately?  And where I live?  Life is good in the big city.

Friday, July 01, 2011

Christmas in July

I was scrolling through some old pics and found these from Christmas.
 I think I better check out the centerfold of "Rock Star Santa", I was pretty sure it was a children's book.
But after seeing AK's reaction, now I'm not so sure.