Tuesday, June 30, 2009

White Flag

One of the lingering vestiges of my former Hollywood life is my thrice annual fancy Beverly Hills hair appointment. (It’s all about the highlights, friends.) At my last appointment, as I sat under the dryer with the obligatory fountain of tin foil squares shooting from my scalp, I couldn’t help but notice that as far as fashion goes, there was a definite “look for summer” going on. I was not sporting it.

The 90210 gals were wearing tight, straight leg jeans or kicky little (So little!) skirts, fun ruffle trimmed t-shirts and sweet sandals. I glanced down at my own fetching ensemble of borderline mom jeans, t-shirt-I-slept-in and pleather Target flats. I am certainly not in competition with the shiny young crowd but, nevertheless, I had still hoped to avoid the look of the I-Gave-Up-Mom.

You know the I-Gave-Up-Mom type. You’ve seen her in stretched out yoga pants crawling along behind a “jogging” stroller through the park. She's the one wearing bedroom slippers, bribing her howling toddler with free cake samples at Trader Joe’s. She's the new mom at pre-school who in just a week, has earned the nickname "the-one-in-the-blue-t-shirt". Oh crap. That’s me.

I admit that I am currently fashion unconscious. Bob is three-years-old and I still have two maternity tops in my wardrobe rotation. I have no defense except, you know, I'm...um... busy? It’s not good, dude.

If I make the move to ditch all the ill fitting pants, pill-y sweaters and weird underpants, I will have to walk around half-naked most of the time. It’s taken four years to destroy my style motivation and beat most of the cute stuff out of my wardrobe. Because I am only moderately inspired to improve the situation and also don’t plan on throwing a big wad of cash at this fashion crisis, it could be a long, unflattering road back.

Monday, June 29, 2009

The Big One - Redux

I’ve had a lot of response to The Big One, my post about earthquake/emergency preparedness. I like that we are all bonded by fear and procrastination. You are my crowd. Some of you have been commenting, e-mailing and Facebooking (that’s a word now) more tips.

Tedd wrote, "Having been right smack dab in the mayhem of the Loma Prieta quake, I would like to add my suggestion - have sleeping bags, pads and a tent conveniently located and safely accessible. As was the case with us, your house may not have fallen down, but you can't necessarily go back inside for a few days, let alone want to with the aftershocks. Outside can be a much safer place, no matter what the weather is like."

Lisa wrote, "After waking up in mid-air and landing on all fours from the boom and pop of the Northridge quake, I still keep these things under the bed and/or in the nightstand: wooden clogs, sweats and a t-shirt (Good when you are nude - hi! - and need to get out of the house quickly), a hard case for glasses (If your glasses are thrown across the room they won't be crushed and you can also find them easier if it's dark), and a flashlight."

Jerry wrote, "Because cell phones might not work, I would also have an old fashioned plug in phone in the emergency supplies box. Make sure the phone has a cord, because new fangled digital (cordless) phones require electricity, whereas old school phones do not."

So maybe you’ve pulled it together and gotten your supplies. All of that tuna and duct tape cannot save you if you are smushed under a bookcase. I found a link about what to do during the actual shaking part at the USGS site.

If you really want to pound an anxiety cocktail, the fine folks at USGS have another page with a nifty Real Time Earthquake Map that charts all of the latest quakes. When I last looked, there had been 692 in the Southern California area in the past week. It's neat. (And by "neat" I mean horrifying.)

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Smacksy Sunday Link: Listen Up

Bob Rosenberg
Bob: One Ear, Self Portrait, 2009
chalk on concrete

There have been moments where my kid is so tuning me out that I have worried that he had some type of medical hearing issue. I then do my own version of a hearing test by inserting the word "zoo", or "cake", or "chocolate" into a sentence. I am then greeted by an immediate response from my previously un-hearing child: “We are going now?” “You have some now?” “We are eating some now?” I am again assured that yes he heard me and yes he was choosing not to respond and yes I feel like ever so gently beating my head against the wall. Again.

I have returned over and over to the article, 25 Ways to Talk So Your Children Will Listen. It’s a great read on the Dr. Sears website with lots of ideas (um… 25 of them) for approaching the small and not so small who are hearing us but choosing not to listen. I have read and re-read this thing trying to burn all of these communication skills into my exhausted-from-all-of-the-nagging brain. (The link will take you to a splash page that gives you the option of signing up for the email newsletter. If you don't wanna sign up and just want to read the article, you can click through by clicking on the red "Ask Dr. Sears" link on the page.)

So yeah, the ears aren’t the problem. Like Paul Newman says in Cool Hand Luke, “What we’ve got here is a failure to communicate.” You know, and then they shoot him.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Smacksy Saturday Photo: Little Feet

Ah, the patter of little feet around the house. There's nothing like having a midget for a butler. - W.C. Fields

Friday, June 26, 2009

Anatomy: 105

This photo was taken by someone who owns a fancy camera.

Sometime back in the olden days, long before Bob was sporting big boy undies (sometime pre-27 days ago), my mom was changing his diaper and Bob sprung a leak, as boys are prone to do. As the pee geyser shot through the air, Bob’s grandma called out in her sweet Texas panhandle accent, “We need to cover his little pecker!” (Cue hacky 1970s needle scratch sound effect.)
“Wait. What?" I said, ignoring the urine dripping from the dresser.
“His pecker.”
“I don’t know! What am I supposed to call it? A weenie? I had a girl!”
“They told me it’s a penis.”
She somehow makes "penis" a three-syllable word.
I love her so much.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Anatomy: 104

The Penis Monologues

Bob is still spending a great deal of energy examining the male/female thing.
Just like the rest of us.

We are in the car on the way to the library.

“Daddy has a penis?” Bob asks.


“I have a penis?”

“Yes you do.”

“Does Pops have a penis?”


“You don’t have a penis.”

“No, I do not.”

“Does Elmo have a penis?”

“Um, no.”

“But Elmo is a boy. He has a penis.”

“Elmo is a muppet, he is pretend, not a boy.”

“Elmo is a boy! He has a boy penis! Elmo is not pretend! I saw him!”

“I’m sorry, you’re right. Elmo has a penis.”

“Bob the Builder? Does Bob the Builder have a penis?”

“Uh… yes?”

“What about Coldplay? What’s that guy’s name?”

“Chris Martin?”

“Does Chris Martin have a penis?”


“Where does he keep it?”

“Trick question.”

“Where is Chris Martin’s penis?’



“The Hamptons?”

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Anatomy: 103

As directed by the professionals, we had been working to teach Bob the anatomically correct names for the parts that people usually cover with their underpants. He is now focusing on the differences between the sexes.

On a recent car ride back from Von’s, I heard this running monologue from the backseat.

“I have a penis. You have a bagina. Mama has a bagina because she is a woman, a lady woman with a lady bagina and I have a penis because I am a boy. I am a boy with a penis because I am a boy. Who else has a bagina? Lots of ladies have them and there are also men with penises. Does Daisy have a bagina? I don’t have a bagina because I am a boy. Daisy is a woman lady dog with a dog bagina and she is not a boy. I am a boy and not a lady dog and there are lots of penises out there. Lots of man penises. Daddy is a man and he has a penis.”

As we pull into the driveway, Bob notices our sweet, semi-retired neighbor, Miss Belva, on her front lawn with her Chihuahua, Tidbit.

“Oh! Miss Belva! It’s Miss Belva! Does Miss Belva have a bagina? Does Miss Belva have a bagina? I have to talk to Miss Belva! We should have a talk.”

“Yes. I’m sure Miss Belva does have one Bob and no, you do not need to talk to her right now.”

“Want to talk to her now! Miss Belva! Miss Belva! Out of the car mama! Need to talk to Miss Belva! She has a bagina!”

I wondered how long we could sit idling in the driveway before the car would run out of gas.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Anatomy: 102

Last year, at Bob’s 24-month pediatric check-up, Dr. Bess let me know that our son would soon become curious about his body. She told me that he might soon notice that parts of his body were similar to daddy's while mommy's parts looked a little different.

Dr. Bess instructed that we should use the anatomically correct terms for body parts. I nodded in agreement, “Right. Of course.” Implying that I know that this is correct from all of those Parents magazine articles and the emails from BabyCenter.com and just being in the modern parent loop. I did know this.

And of course, we had been referring to Bob's penis and testicles as his "pee pee" and "nutsmens". I didn't share this.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Anatomy: 101

Bob Rosenberg
Oh! I forgot a body, Portrait of Daddy, 2009
crayon on paper

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Day of the Dad

Reasons that I hope our son Bob will grow up to be just like his father:

He will be good at making up secret nicknames.
He will think math is cool.
He will be thrilled watching Youtube videos of kittens dressed in outfits.
He will be a good tipper.
He will enjoy old people.
He will smell pretty good, most of the time.
He will know how to make a perfect cheese omelet.
He will do both Star Trek and Star Wars.
He will have no fear of camping.
He will know how to drive a stick shift.
He will have a long fuse.
He will understand the importance of timing.
He will get all riled up about current events.
He will have faith in something besides himself.
He will put music on the priority list right between air and food.
He will be fluent in sad and happy tears.
He will have a funny voice that is reserved exclusively for talking to animals.
He will be a kind father.
He will be one of the good guys.
And he will love his mother.

Happy Father’s Day.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Smacksy Saturday Photo: Wonders of the World

There are no seven wonders of the world in the eyes of a child. There are seven million.
- Walt Streightiff

Friday, June 19, 2009

Home Sweet Hood

Last fall, we made the move to our new town. While it is still close enough to our Los Angeles friends and family to be only a moderately annoying 30-ish minute commute, it is in many ways, a different planet.

Our old place was in a typical Los Angeles overlap neighborhood. Two blocks to the east were gorgeous multi-million dollar homes. Two blocks to the west were low income housing units. To the north a series of Sikh ashrams and to the south a really good Kosher bagel bakery. We floated in a no-man’s land of expensive, speeding cars and 24 hour police helicopters. There was a lot going on.

Our notable neighbors were:

Nextel Guy – He screamed obscenities into his speaker phone as he paced our block every weekday afternoon at 4pm. We think he lived in the alley. This was never confirmed.

Meth Lady – She walked her dogs every day and goaded them into fighting the corner house dogs through the tall wooden fence, while yelling, “That’s right! Get ‘em! Tear ‘em up!”

Weird Michael - A Persian gentleman in his mid 50s. He drove a baby blue early model Datsun 280-Z and by our best estimates was running a brothel from the empty side of his duplex.

We don’t miss any of them so much.

There are many reasons why we picked our new town to be our home; nice neighborhoods, great schools, slower pace, and less expensive rent. For those reasons, we were excited to make the move. What we were not prepared for were our new neighbors.

Miss Caroline - Our neighbor across the street. She came to our door, shortly after we moved in, introduced herself and her middle-school aged children and gave us a plate of homemade chocolate chip cookies.

Miss Belva and Miss Mary – These sisters in their 70s live next door with their two small dogs. Upon hearing from me that while they weren’t home, our dog Daisy had dug under the fence and let herself into their house through the dog door, Miss Mary said, “Let her in any time she wants to play!”

Mr. John – A gent who lives across the way with his wife and 90-something year-old mother-in-law. He dresses exclusively in blue and knows all of the facts related to our street’s drainage easement situation. On Easter, he left a candy filled Easter basket on our doorstep for our son Bob.

When we woke up Christmas morning, our porch looked like, well, Christmas morning. There were cards and bags of cookies and sweets from various neighbors on our block. If we were to move, I know we would miss them. (And we’d miss the neighbors too.)

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Top of the Heap

Photo of Bob by Karen Peterson

As a gal who is notoriously fond of organization and order, I have been harboring a dirty little secret for a while now. I have had an organizational breakdown of the paper variety. For years I had a system involving a hanging file for receipts categorized by tax deduction, an action file and a file for correspondence. It was tidy and delightful. I also had a desk, and a filing cabinet, occasional uninterrupted free time, and no pre-schooler. That’s all changed. Excuses? Why yes.

My in-box procedure for the past year or so has involved tossing all of the paperwork and mail that accumulates into The Basket. When I need to locate something, I tear through The Basket (aka That Damned Basket), swearing about how much time I am wasting until I lay my hands on what I’m looking for, or I don't. My filing system consisted of emptying The Basket into an old P.F. Chang’s to-go bag and cramming it in the closet when company was coming. The horror.

Every few months I would spend an evening filing, shredding, and promising myself not to let it get so bad next time. I broke that sweet promise over and over again. Even though I hated it, I was obviously comfortable enough with my mountain of paper to continue doing nothing about it. I’m so complicated.

A few weeks ago, you may recall, I made the decision to do Inbox Zero; a technique for prioritizing and organizing email for maximum productivity. It was a little time consuming to get set up and once I got to zero it took awhile to get used to the naked look of my inbox, but now, I love it. The same types of procedures will be used to corral my out-of-control paper situation.

Today is the day where I take the next step: Paper Zero. I will climb the pile and then implement a new system. Unless I would like to have the “help” of my 3-year-old, this all must be accomplished during naptime. I will come up with a number of important and pressing reasons why I should continue putting this off. (Twitters, Facebooks, snacks) I will ignore the whinier me and get going.

I breakdown the piles of papers (mail/bills/cards/coupons) and odds and ends (crayons/Chuck E. Cheese tokens/batteries of indeterminate age) and organize them by category. Then with some manila file folders and the P-touch label maker, I make it happen. The key to my innovative system is that all of the files have to be accessible, eliminating the apparently Herculean effort of getting the blue plastic file box out of the cabinet and putting it back. These new files will return to the infamous Basket, which will now hold only files. Paper that finds its way into the house must find an immediate and permanent residence.

An hour and 20 minutes later I have reached: Paper Zero. As with most unpleasant things, the build up and the dread were much more dramatic and unpleasant than actually just getting it over with.

I am wondering if I have the fortitude for Laundry Zero.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

All Happy, All the Time

25 Things About Daisy by Daisy Rosenberg
  1. I like my snacks.
  2. I like your snacks better.
  3. I play piano in the middle of the night.
  4. I enjoy the company of cats and count a number of them among my closest friends.
  5. I think the Halti Harness™ is Satan's handiwork.
  6. It's not me that's shedding, it's that tall guy.
  8. I believe digging is a highly underrated activity.
  9. I am usually wondering if you have any snacks.
  10. I love that kiddie pool way more than the kiddie does.
  11. My enthusiasm is legendary.
  12. I like Thai food.
  13. It doesn't like me.
  14. I once started a 12 puppy mutiny in obedience class.
  15. I wait a minimum of two weeks before ripping the squeaker out of any chew toy. (Manners.)
  16. I once ate an entire rotisserie chicken, (unsanctioned) including the bones, in under 30 seconds.
  17. I don't get this, "Down!" thing that everyone keeps talking about.
  18. I am really into all of your smells.
  19. I am a morning person.
  20. I am also an afternoon, evening, and middle-of-the-night type.
  21. I have difficulty "dialing it down", or so I am told. Repeatedly.
  22. I consider #21 an asset, not a liability.
  23. I must bark at the mailman - I am traditional, like that.
  24. I am delighted to be here.
  25. You know how when I was a puppy? And I was abandoned? And you found me in the rain eating garbage in that parking lot on that first day we met? And you took me home? And you made me part of your family? I haven't forgotten that. And I won't.
You Capture is a weekly photo challenge at a mama blog I like:
I Should Be Folding Laundry
This week's challenge is: Emotion

In my photo above, Daisy shows off her emotion - Sweetest Happy.


Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Bob Reclining: A One Act

The potty training is oh so rewarding. Progress is being made. Our boy is a tiny potty using machine. One of Bob’s favorite benefits of this new big boy underpants arrangement is his unprecedented easy access to his nether regions.

(5:20 PM. BOB is relaxing on the couch. One of his hands rests casually inside of his pants. I enter from the kitchen)

What’s going on there buddy?

I have my hand on my balls.


They are very fragile.


Monday, June 15, 2009

The Big One

A few months back, my friend Stephanie forwarded an email to me with an alert from someone’s friend of someone’s friend at Homeland Security forwarded from someone at the U.S. Geological Survey. It explained that due to an alarming amount of recent seismic activity, a large earthquake might be in the immediate offing for we in the So Cal area. It went on to mention that, earthquake predictions are unreliable but to use this time as the motivation to check your preparedness and be ready; if The Big One didn’t happen in the next 3 days, it was still going to happen sometime.

We compared notes on our shocking lack of preparedness. Stephanie mentioned that after a quick mental review of the supplies in the house for her family of six, if the big quake should hit now, after 20 minutes they would be eating each other. We were not much better off here. At best, we were “prepared” for 3 days of eating mayonnaise sandwiches in the dark. Unacceptable.

My mom was still living in Northern California during the big and deadly Loma Prieta quake in 1989. More specifically, she was in Aptos, 2 miles from the epicenter. As I watched the live news coverage of the quake, there was very little information to be had other than that the epicenter of this giant quake was based in my mom’s living room. I had no way of contacting her. I was worried, but the one thing I did know was that as long as she had made it through the shaking, she would be prepared for what came after. I knew she had enough canned goods and batteries in the house to outfit the neighborhood for a month. She ended up losing some glass things and had some structural damage, but she was lucky, and fine, and organized, and ready.

So, I knew what ready looked like. It wasn’t us. That one dead flashlight in the garage wasn’t going to do much for us in the event of a big quake, mild storm, or even 20 minute power outage.

I decided I needed to make it all happen while I was still motivated by fear and paranoia. I made a late run to Ralph’s (at 11:00 PM on a school night) and filled a shopping cart with 3 first aid kits, a palette of batteries, gallons of bottled water, a serious ton of weird canned stuff (Dinty Moore Beef Stew anyone?), and a small propane BBQ.

It's done. We have stuff. We have a plan. We have emergency kits in both cars. If I am forced to camp out on the 210 for 3 days, I can make coffee. We have a butane lantern for seeing the rubble. As directed, I also hid some cash. After the quake, ATMs and credit cards could be worthless and Coinstar does not accept tears.

According to the Holy-Crap-You-Are-Screwed email, here is the basic list of stuff to have on hand. (Not just for earthquakes - this also works for tornadoes and hurricanes, times of civil unrest, or living until your unemployment check kicks in.)

• Half gallon of water per person in your household per day. At 7 days, that’s 3 ½ gallons per person.
• A week’s worth of food – and don’t forget a manual can opener and a propane stove or outdoor grill to cook it on.

Some suggestions for your food cache:

• Canned meats, fish, fruits, vegetables, beans, soups
• Protein bars
• Dry cereal or granola
• Peanut butter
• Nuts
• Dried fruit
• Crackers
• Canned juices
• Non-perishable comfort foods, like chocolate
• Bottled drinks with electrolytes, such as Gatorade
• Baby food in jars, plus formula, for the little ones
• Pet food

• Lanterns and flashlights - It’s going to be several weeks, possibly months - without electricity.
• Batteries
• Battery-powered radio
• Extra prescription meds - You can ask your doctor for a 1-time additional prescription, then rotate those into your regular supply each month to keep them fresh.
• First Aid kit - Include anti-diarrhea medication, in case you ingest some bad water.
• Garbage bags - You can line your toilet with these, too, since there won’t be any water to flush when you get that diarrhea.
• Alcohol gel for hand washing
• Toilet paper, paper towels, disposable diapers (For the baby. Or you. You are a mess.)
• Whistle
• A communication plan - The California phone servers will be down and/or overwhelmed, but you may be able to reach someone out of state if you use a cell phone. Designate one out-of-state person to be your family’s contact person, and make sure that all your family members living in LA know to call that person if you are not all together when a quake happens. If your kids are at school when it hits, they need to know to call Grandma in Florida so that Grandma can relay messages for you.

Those are the absolute basics. Don’t forget to keep food, water, and blankets in your car, as well as an extra pair of sneakers, socks, and a sweat suit or something comfortable to wear. If you are unfortunate enough to be on a freeway at the time of a major quake, you will probably be stuck there for days. Bust out the coffee.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Smacksy Sunday Link: The Hummus

If ever I am feeling a little too impressed with my “edgy” taste or “unique” interests, Christian Lander’s blog, “Stuff White People Like” will snap me back to reality. Apparently most all of my tastes and interests land me squarely in the center of my Daily Show/Farmer's Market/David Sedaris-loving demographic. Mr. Lander’s enormously popular site satirizes the interests of “North American left-leaning, city-dwelling white folk", in other words, me and a bunch of people I know. And it’s funny, yo.*

* Yo - See Stuff White People Like #107 Self Aware Hip Hop References

As a Trader Joe's-going gal with a touch of the gluten intolerance, a post particularly close to my all-too-common-heart is stuff white people like #112 Hummus. Sometimes reading his stuff makes me just a tiny bit self conscious about my whole deal - but if the hummus fits...

I will take this all a step further and offer you this link to Emeril Lagasse’s hummus recipe which is basic and awesome and I like it. Because I’m all white like that.

Have a great Sunday everybody.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Smacksy Saturday Photo: Happiness

Happiness is a direction, not a place. - Sydney J. Harris

Happy Saturday Everyone.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Pump It Up

When Bob was still tiny, my friend Shelley gave me this excellent advice, “Never play ‘kid’s music’ in the car.” She warned that hearing Raffi, Kermit, Barney, et al, while driving would cause me to want to repeatedly beat my head against the dashboard, especially when stuck on the 405.

We have mostly heeded this advice. When we have not, we always regretted it. We give Bob a wide range of choices and he narrows it down by some mysterious set of criteria known only to him. Being in charge of the first tier of choices is a good thing. I’d much rather hear Harry Belafonte, Radiohead, Iggy Pop, and the Beach Boys than the big purple dinosaur.

We have also tried a CD of music for kids, recorded by not-for-kids musicians. Although Colours Are Brighter features artists including Belle and Sebastian, Snow Patrol, and Flaming Lips among others, it’s still music written for kids. It’s an OK half way point between music-you-would-voluntarily-listen-to and the gun-to-your-head variety. (Although I’ve heard “Go Go Ninja Dinosaur” by Four Tet so many times now that I am both a ninja and also a dinosaur.)

I understand that kids love repetition and at this age, that’s how they learn. I also understand that one can be the biggest David Bowie fan in the world but when one’s kid wants to hear “Jean Genie” for the 124th time in a row “one” can be a wee bit tempted to hurl the Diamond Dogs CD out the sunroof of the speeding station wagon. Nevertheless, the 2,000th time you hear Elvis Costello’s “Pump It Up” is still better than the first time you hear “Callie the Race Car” from the Kindermusik CD.

I'll take it.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Some Nice Fish and Gwyneth Paltrow

A few months ago, Gwyneth Paltrow launched a lifestyle/website/bloggish deal called goop.com. It's all about her ideas, advice, and opinions about clothes, and food, and travel, and stuff, and things. She's trying to help us all unleash our inner-Paltrow.

Gwynnie has taken some heat about her site in the media and the blog-world, many charging her with being an elitist. Well, she's got an academy award, a rock star husband, her godfather is Steven Spielberg and her best friend is Madonna - so yeah, "elitist" might fit here - whatever. Say what you will about her but the gal is friends with Mario Batali. For a skinny chick, she knows her food.

I adapted this salmon recipe from a post in the MAKE section of her site and I was impressed with my culinary prowess for days afterward. It was spectacular and spectacularly simple to make.

Steamed Salmon and Greens
Serves: 2
Time: 20 minutes

1 small handful (1/4-1/2 cup) of your favorite herbs (I used basil, Italian parsley and thyme)
4 finger sized pieces of fresh, peeled ginger (this is my own addition but I think it is key)
2 6 oz. organic salmon fillets
2 cups of your favorite fresh greens (I used spinach and kale)
2 wedges of lemon (I also sliced some lemon and added it to the steaming water)

Line your steamer with the herbs and rest the salmon fillets on top. Steam for 11 minutes. Put the greens alongside the fish and steam for an additional 7 minutes. Squeeze the lemon over the fish and greens and serve.

And may the Paltrow be with you.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

The Nature of Change

Those that know me, might tell you that I have just the tiniest touch of perfectionism and control-freakishness. (How dare they?)

For a lifetime I have battled my own assumption that there would come a time when everyone would be healthy, well-rested and getting along, the fridge and wallets would be full, the floor swept, the dishes done, the weeds pulled, some saint will have picked up the dry-cleaning, work would be fun and fulfilling, our flossing habits would be legendary, and the pets would carry around their own lint rollers. Once this formula was unlocked, it all would (and this is key) stay that way. This was the imaginary finish line that I was running towards, trying to make it all happen. Consciously, I know that this is not how it works but still I would find myself trying to get There.

The Greek philosopher Heraclitus (smart guy, unfortunate name) is credited with saying that, “The only thing constant is change”. I know this to be true and I am really, really trying to “get it”. There is one person (besides The Oprah) who is really helping me to absorb this idea: My Kid.

There’s the matter of him changing daily. It was just last weekend that Bob was a tiny, squishy baby. Now he’s a talking, running, singing, climbing, hugging, drawing, building, boy-person.

He will wake from a nap and it is painfully obvious that he has grown 2 inches in the last 3 hours. He is all change all the time; a new word, a new fear, a new sweetness, a new sound, a new number, a new trick, a new friend, a new something; every 20 minutes.

Also, Bob notices the change in everything.

“Mama, the trees are making some colors.”

“That big spider has a web. Does the spider like to get hugs?”

“Are these new flowers for eating? They smell like pink clouds.”

“Mama? You finished all the ice cream? Oh, Mama…”

Really, everything.

So, with Bob's help I do my best to remember that Here is the only There that counts. I know that Here is messy and perfectly imperfect and fleeting and crazy and beautiful.

I know that Here is uncontrollable and that is the nature of change and that is a blessing.

You Capture is a weekly photo challenge at a mama blog I like:
I Should Be Folding Laundry
This week's challenge is: Nature

In my photo above, I am watching Bob, watching nature.


Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Not So Extreme Frugality

Three years ago, soon after our son Bob was born, my husband and I made the decision that I would stay-at-home with the new guy and that we would do the necessary downsizing to accommodate living on one income. We saved a lot by making the move from our cute place in the nice neighborhood by the beach, to the cheaper place in the sorta sketchy neighborhood between the Sikh ashram and the duplex of ill repute. Later we made another move to the even cheaper place in the pretty trees neighborhood with the great public schools. The work to make that cheaper/nicer/school-ier wish-list a reality was a job in itself and took the better part of last year.

We have also made a number of little changes along the way. There was a subtle but substantial shift from moderate DINK-hood (Double Income No Kids) to SITPD-ness (Sweating It 'Til Pay Day). Goodbye Banana Republic/Pottery Barn/Whole Foods. Hello Old Navy/Target/Trader Joe's. Again, these were small adjustments but they did add up to savings. We are fortunate. These domestic and lifestyle tweaks were not hardships. Making some moves to clear the debt side of our balance sheet, build for the future (Home Buying/College/Retirement) and save for the possible (Lay Off/Unemployment/Uh Oh) is common sense, but not extreme behavior.

Extreme Frugality” is writer W. Hodding Carter’s weekly series on gourmet.com. The Carters, like the rest of us, are feeling the nastiness of the economy. They have made the decision to change their family lifestyle to reflect their new financial actuality. For them, living within their means will be a new and “extreme” experience. Because this column is for gourmet.com, much of the talk is, understandably, about food.

Mr. Carter is a self-described former spend thrift and this exploration into affordability is all new for him. He experiments with some old-school ideas that I can get behind like gardening and sale-only purchasing. There are some moves that are just icky, like dumpster foraging and fresh road kill bbq. So far, I have resisted the urge to send him a Costco sized palette of ramen.

Following these folks has gotten me thinking about frugality and our own habits and what our family might consider "extreme". Financial guru Suze Orman suggests that during this crazy-nuts financial time, we should all be living off half of our income and banking the rest for the storm. We are not saving at that rate. Now that our previous cut backs are just part of the regular routine, I believe I have become somewhat complacent. Time to switch it up a little and look for new ways to save. I am also feeling grateful that roadkill bbq does not have to become a part of our culinary repertoire... yet.

Monday, June 8, 2009

18 Morning Minutes

You may be familiar with the classic baby shower activity where, unbeknownst to the mom-to-be, as she is opening all of the adorable gifts, one of the guests is writing down each of mama’s remarks. Once the presents are unwrapped, the comments are read aloud. “That is so cute!” “How cute is that?” “So, cute!” “Oh my goodness but that’s cute!” Everyone laughs at all the “cute” and it’s sweet and sorta funny and a fine shower-y time is had by all.

I decided to play the game with myself for just the first 18 minutes of a regular morning. Perhaps you will notice some themes developing.

Good Morning baby! Are you dry? Good job!

What is that smell? Who made that smell and where is it coming from?

Daisy? Everyone? Who needs to tinkle?

Yes, we can read the trains book.

Finger out of your nose, please.

Who’s my favorite pooman?

Yes, they do have a potty at the park.

Careful baby, that’s hot coffee.

No, I don’t want to smell that, thanks.

Daisy! Out of the litter box!

In the front yard? Who pooped in the front yard?

It’s not OK to stand on the couch. We sit on the couch.

Yes, they do have a potty at the library.

Poo poos don’t belong in our underpants.

Who wants a juice box?

No pill bugs in the house, please.

Yes, I would think the mailman probably does poo poo in his potty.

No stickers on the cat. That is not OK.

Oh thank you. What is this? A booger?

Nice pee pee! Yes it made potty bubbles. Now shake it. High-five!

What’s all over your hands? Please tell me it’s chocolate.

No more being bossy, that’s mama’s job...

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Smacksy Sunday Link: The Memory Palace

You need to know about our friend Nate DiMeo and his brilliant pod-cast series, The Memory Palace. Nate is a journalist, award winning public radio producer and a genius storyteller. iTunes describes The Memory Palace as, “Short, surprising stories of the past, sometimes heartbreaking, sometimes hysterical, always super-great. For history buffs, fans of public radio shows like This American Life, Radio Lab, and whatnot, and for all admirers of things that are super-great.”

If you've never done the podcast thing, he makes it very simple. Turn up the audio on your computer, go to Nate's website www.thememorypalace.us and press the triangular play button under the photo for each individual story. He posts a new one every week or so. You can also subscribe via RSS or iTunes.

These 2–5 minute little gems are fascinating and I guarantee you that the stories will haunt you for days.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Smacksy Saturday Photo: Fast

Why should I practice running slow? I already know how to run slow. I want to learn to run fast. - Emil Zátopek

Feeling Fast
This is a boy feeling fast.
Feeling fast and speed and wind and power.
Feeling asphalt and leaves and grass and dirt.
Feeling on your marks and get set and go and GO.
All with a juice box chaser.

You Capture is a weekly photo challenge at a mama blog I like:
I Should Be Folding Laundry
This week's challenge: Feel
It was fun.


Friday, June 5, 2009

Learn Something Already: Day 5

As you learn and challenge yourself, the brain continues to grow so...
Do these facts make my brain look fat?

On my final day of my quest to seek out new learning experiences for my brain makeover, I found a list of facts when I Googled “learn something new everyday”. Before re-posting them here, I decided that I should confirm these anonymous internet “facts” by checking their veracity on the um… internet.

A dime has 118 ridges around the edge.
After spending the 8 longest minutes of my life on the Wikipedia page about dimes and another 6 minutes Googling a variety of dime ridge related key words, I still could not confirm this information. The longer I tried to find out if there are indeed 118 ridges on the edge of a dime, the less I cared if there are 118 ridges on the edge of a dime, in the end realizing that, of course, I never really cared about dimes or their ridges, 118 or otherwise. I want a sandwich.

The average American, will spend 6 months out of 75 years waiting at red lights.
Here in Los Angeles, because of the population to automobile ratio, the average is 6 months out of every 5 months. Thank you! Goodnight Cleveland.

Winston Churchill was born in a ladies' room during a dance.
The snopes.com folks say this isn’t exactly right, which is too bad since this is one of the more entertaining facts on the list.

A cat has 32 muscles in each ear.
Sourcing a variety of different cat ear muscle related articles, this would appear to be true. I also learned that a cat’s ear can pivot 180 degrees. I am starting to feel a little light-headed, really.

A "jiffy" is an actual unit of time for 1/100th of a second.
This is an adorable little factoid. I put it in the same category as: A “google” is a misspelled representation of an actual number – a “googol” is a 1 followed by 100 zeroes. Maybe I’m dehydrated?

Babies are born without kneecaps and they don't appear until the child reaches 2 to 6 years of age.
Don’t know if it’s true, but it’s creepy. Just felt up Bob’s 3-year-old knees and they feel cappy to me. He was not amused.

A snail can sleep for three years.
Snails must not have kids. I found the following information posted on Yahoo by some random snail aficionado, “Snails hibernate in the winter. This means they go to sleep while the weather is very cold. Snails bury themselves and close up the entrance to their shell with a door of slime. This hardens into a tough skin. This tough skin keeps predators out but a tiny hole allows air in. Some snails that live in the desert have been known to remain in their shells for two or three years.” She says it with such authority and conviction that I am going to take her word for it. “Door of slime.” I think they played our prom.

A shark is the only fish that can blink with both eyes.
Apparently this is false. Everything I found says that they do not blink at all. Some of the articles I read said that sharks don’t have eyelids. Other articles said that they do have upper and lower eyelids but that the lids do not close and that the shark eyeball is covered by a protective membrane. The pro-eyelid people were mostly at websites with URLs ending in .org so I’ll go with them. You know that thing you do at the movies or on a plane where you start dozing off and as your chin hits your chest, you jerk your head back and wake up? That’s where I am right now.

Almonds are a member of the peach family.
This is apparently quite controversial and I have found numerous, strong arguments supporting both views. My forehead just hit the keyboard.

OK. Seeking out new opportunities for learning has been taking effort. This new knowledge deal will sometimes happen organically during the course of my day, sometimes not. I have decided to resort to this wikimedia shortcut. I will get a brief article about something emailed to me everyday. (Nixon’s “Checkers Speech”, The History of Biology, The Battle of Midway)

It will also include various historical this-day-in-history headlines, a quote of the day and a vocabulary word-of-the-day. It's like the wiki version of a stocking stuffer page-a-day-calendar. In and out in less than two minutes. It’s no New Yorker subscription, but since my life isn’t set up to accommodate a guilt-inducing tower of un-read smart people articles right now, it will do. This experiment is about brain exercise and new information, if that new information happens to be “holystone (n):(nautical) A block of soft sandstone used for scrubbing the wooden decks of a ship," so be it.

What I learned: I've got a lot to learn.
I think I just felt my frontal lobe flex a little.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Learn Something Already: Day 4

In my continuing efforts to strengthen my brain parts by learning something new every day, I forge ahead.

Day 4
The Wikihow widget on my Google home page listed “How to Fold an Origami Crane” as the how-to of the day. Sounded like a delightfully cultural and crafty five minute learning experience. Armed with a few square pieces of paper, I began my new project. Twenty-three somewhat annoying minutes later, after following the instructions and diagrams, I had arrived at the part of the process where I had fashioned a sheet of paper into a foldy wad that the directions referred to as an “inside out kite".

The directions went on to explain that the next part of the process is difficult to understand and that I would need to consult the photos. It was indeed difficult to understand and unfortunately the photos made it all the more confusing. In desperate need of further assistance, I searched Youtube and found a video of origami crane instruction. As I followed along it became apparent that this was an entirely different and even more complicated bird than the one I had already failed with. I think I actually felt my brain shrinking. Time elapsed: 48 minutes.

What I learned: I will give up on an irritating goal half way through if the desired result is a glorified cootie catcher.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Learn Something Already: Day 3

Still looking for the learning. As yet, brain does not feel measurably smartened.

Day 3
I read a post on the Zen Habits blog titled, “55 Ways to Get More Energy”. One of the tips that was new to me was: Change your socks mid-way through the day. A change of socks will apparently leave you refreshed and ready to take on the afternoon. I mentioned this to a friend who tells me that soldiers in the field are advised to change socks 2-3 times daily. This idea makes sense to me. Although I generally do not wear socks, I might be willing to change that if it works better than the 4PM pot of coffee technique that I am currently using.

Last week, I briefly stepped out of mom-land and did some production work on the set of a new game show. Knowing I would be on my feet for the better part of 4 days, I decided to employ my own version of the sock tip. Because I am sock-free, I brought 2 extra changes of shoes and changed them throughout the day. It was somewhat effective, although by the third day, the cameraman I was working with began referring to me as “Imelda”.

What I learned: I prefer sitting to standing.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Learn Something Already: Day 2

The second day of my learn-something-new project. The learning continues.

Day 2
I dragged myself up the steps of the post office this morning at 8:15 with a cumbersome box to ship and a wandering 3-year-old. I accidentally dropped my purse and watched its contents scatter back down the steps. As I chased the rolling lipstick and repeatedly tried jamming the battery back into my battered cell phone, Bob thought it would be helpful to throw away my "trash" (keys, wallet, sunglasses). I raced to intercept him before he reached the garbage can.

With all of my lady items finally secured back inside my bag, I clenched the back of Bob's shirt in my right hand to "steer" him and balanced the heavy box on my left hip. Shuffling back to the post office entrance, I pulled hard on the door handle. Locked.

What I learned: Our post office opens at 9:00am, not 8:00am.

(Yay. I’m a student of life. This is fun.)

Monday, June 1, 2009

Learn Something Already: Day 1

I recently read that it’s important for brain health to learn something new everyday. Because of the way my memory likes to let go of the important (my ATM pin code) and retain the unimportant (lyrics to Head Like a Hole) this could be challenging but it can’t hurt. (Can it? What if it hurts?) My goal this week will be to gain some new (possibly painful) piece of knowledge every day.

Day 1
HowToCleanStuff.net has an article listing the 10 dirtiest things in your home. According to this list, the bathtub is the #1 dirtiest spot in the house. The HowToCleanStuff people can make this assumption only because they have not seen the amount of dog hair living beneath our couch. They go on to explain that there is more bacteria in the bathtub than in the toilet. (I have a bad smell look on my face as I type this.)

What I learned: I might be cleaner before a bath than after.

(Has this propelled me to rise above my laziness and procrastination to even rinse out the tub yet this week? No, but I’m not enjoying the bathing like I should which must count for something.)