Wednesday, November 18, 2009

One Love

We walked along the wide open beach, our senses filled with the ocean’s boisterous offer of serenity. Waves thundered onto the shore, the shrill screams of gulls somehow melted into the landscape while cool sand wiggled its way through our toes and the ocean fog lay down upon us.

Beyond the salty strands of hair whipping across my face, a woman and a couple of children approached us from the opposite direction, before we could say hello, she told us there was a pelican in trouble down the beach.

“What’s the problem?”

“It's got a fish hook stuck in its beak and it’s all wrapped up in fishing line.”

We approached tentatively. Silhouetted against shades of gray, the great bird hobbled around in circles, her squat legs trussed like a Thanksgiving turkey. She was clearly anxious, but seemed to sense that an all out panic was partly what led to her debacle and another one would be no more helpful. We drew near and could see that the hook and line had torn a small hole in the fishing pouch and was now impaled into her impressive bill.

“I don’t know if you should, it is a wild animal after all.” I said as if he were confused as to the subject of our encounter.

I might have expected his response, “I can’t very well leave her to die.”

“Is your campsite near?” he asked the woman, “I'm going to need a pair of pliers or something to remove that hook.”

"I'll see what I can find," she said and sprinted into the veil of the marine layer.

The pelican is not often thought to be a beautiful bird; but I rather like its substantial size, the many curves and positions of its long neck, and the sight of a colony gliding in line formation just above the wave break is more graceful than a troupe of dancing ballerinas. Flying solo, it trolls the ocean for an evening meal and it is there that the beast of a bird reveals the epitome of poise and power. With prey in sight, it crooks its massive wings just so, stretches its mighty neck to the sea, and then plunges straight down from heights of thirty feet to scoop up unsuspecting fish in its generous pouch and then tosses them back like a cowboy swilling whiskey.

The woman returned and handed him a pair of needle nosed pliers. He moved closer, breathed deeply and with a grace and strength all his own, he calmed that great bird. He gently took the massive beak in his hand and drew her body close to him securing her beneath his arm. With the dexterity and precision of a surgeon, he removed the hook and then methodically unwound the string that would have otherwise been her demise.

I recall that pelican giving my husband a nod before toddling off; I now realize it has taken me years to appreciate what I experienced that day. Years for me to know fully, what that bird on the beach knew of my man in a moment.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

It Is The Veteran

It is the Veteran, not the minister,
Who has given us freedom of religion.

It is the Veteran, not the reporter,
Who has given us freedom of the press.

It is the Veteran, not the poet,
Who has given us freedom of speech.

It is the Veteran, not the campus agitator,
Who has given us freedom to protest.

It is the Veteran, not the lawyer,
Who has given us the right to a fair trial.

It is the Veteran, not the politician,
Who has given us the right to vote.

It is the Veteran who salutes the flag,
Who serves beneath the flag, and whose coffin is draped by the flag,
Who allows the protester to burn the flag.

Charles Michael Province

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Summer Lights

I lay stiff, clutching the pink flowered bedspread under my chin, I strained to hear past the whippoorwills’ first calls of the night. My belly ached in that specific longing way that feels like heartbreak. My bedroom windows were open; the heavy air carried the scent of grass clippings and sweet honeysuckle in its thickness.

Outside my window, friends taunted me with their yelping to and fro in preparation for the light show about to commence. Mason jars were gathered, nails driven into lids, and strategies laid out. When the sky turned deeply orange with only moments left of light, the mysterious beetles made their appearance and lit up the night.

From my bed, within the frame of my window, I saw the swarm sparkle past. A trail of flailing Mason jars came next, seemingly propelled only by laughter and an occasional bobbing head, breathless from the chase. I was motionless, not only did I wish to be in their midst, I was incredibly humiliated that I wasn’t. I surely didn’t want to be caught bathed and in bed while every other kid in the neighborhood gallivanted about.

Eventually, the crickets joined the whippoorwills' evening chorus, kids were summoned home and against my efforts, sleep came over me.

Amazingly, the day followed night; I survived the disappointment and humiliation and sat down to a new day where the Captn Crunch was just as sweet as it had ever been.

Monday, November 2, 2009


Saturday, October 17, 2009

Fabulous Four

The Great Pumpkin 2009

We drove, it was hot, there were pumpkins, we came home, the end.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Playground Milestone

A week ago as I walked through Nathan's school entry to pick him up at the end of his day, I peered through the windows to the playground hoping to catch a glimpse of my boy before he saw me. I did see him, and he was soaring into the sky with the biggest smile plastered on his face. I don't think anyone else realized they were witnessing a major milestone, but he knew and when he eventually saw me, he knew I knew and I don't know who was more thrilled.

One of the few benefits left of Shaun's and my self employment statuses is that we were all three swinging and pumping together in the bay breeze at 4pm that very afternoon.

Falling Leaves

"Mommy, when are we going to rake a lot of leaves into a pile and then jump in them?"

"When the sun doesn't shine as long and it's colder outside, then leaves stop making chlorophyll, change colors and fall off of trees--except if it is an evergreen, then it stays green and makes chlorophyll all the time."

"Mommy, what means Autumn?"

photo: Tamsen Thanksgiving 2008

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Beauty and the Beast

We spend a fair amount of time at the playgrounds on the bay near our home. I have had two disconcerting experiences there as of late. The first was with a boy much larger than Nathan, but also four and a half years old. This boy, Jack, was accompanied by his grandmother. At first I appreciated the way she hung back a little giving the boy some space to be a kid and do his own thing.

As yet, Nathan is not the most gracious of playmates on the playground. I have confidence he will find his way to a reasonable comfort zone at some point hopefully sooner than later. Jack on the other hand, may never find that reasonable zone. He was intimidating both in size and demeanor and Nathan was not the least bit shy in putting off his rather aggressive advances to play. I believe Nathan's exact response was loud, "No, I don't want to play with him!" followed by running far and fast. Jack was not to be dissuaded by such subtlety, he followed faster and more furiously. This dance continued through several similar exchanges. I was stupidly feeling embarrassed about Nathan's lack of social graces to this child cretin and the feelings of the apathetic old woman that followed twenty paces behind him. Finally, the boys were on either side of me, I was facing Jack, at which time he spat the words at me, "if he's not going to be my friend, I am going to punch him in the face!" Really? Now, I can feel some empathy for this kid, who is clearly having his own trouble on the playground and probably in life and could use some strong guidance, but at the time I wanted to throttle the little bastard.

As I followed Nathan's last departure from him, I was much more clear on two things: One, I need to be more in tune to the difference of social immaturity and the clarity of intuition and sensitivity, and two, how early and deep the tendencies of an a-hole can be set.

The second of the disconcerting experiences at the playground occurred today, Sunday, a big day at the bay. The playgrounds were full, there were birthdays, company parties and church socials all advertised along the way to our usual spot. Nathan noticed several birthday parties going on once we arrived at our destination and first seemed a little perplexed as to why we were not joining in any of the celebrations or partaking of any of the cake all around us. He also put up his best argument yet for ice cream from the strolling ice cream man, but I digress.

One of the birthday parties in the vicinity was clearly a princess party complete with a Disney princess themed jumpy jump, princess balloons and what I thought was even an actual live character dressed as Belle of Beauty and the Beast (yes, I had to look it up, I knew she had a name.) Upon closer observation, it seemed the character was not quite adult sized, though she was about the size of the party goers, who I would place at 8-10 years old--seemed sort of old for a jumpy jump, but what do I know? Anyway, my next assumption was that maybe the birthday girl had dressed up as Belle for the big event...with my next observation, that did not seem likely. Belle was being strung up between two palm trees. I could not believe my eyes as she bobbed and swayed in the breeze against the clumsy manipulations of the male party hosts.

I have nothing but sympathy for my friends with daughters that have to deal with the whole princess/barbie thing--but this was downright disturbing. I tried to avert my eyes, I wanted to be proved wrong, proved unfair, how little faith I had in my fellow mother. Unfortunately, this time, that was not to be the case. As soon as Belle was positioned just so, with just the right amount of tension in her noose, baseball bats were disseminated to the waiting mob and the clobbering of the princess with the porcelain face and the flowing yellow gown commenced.

I wondered, as I steered Nathan from the festivities, how many of them or their younger sisters would be dressing as that same princess in a few weeks, that same princess that got her face smashed in today, also in favor of a little candy.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009


Nathan's bedtime routine has long since been established, since he was two months old in fact. Pieces of it have changed along the way of course, one being Nathan's desire to take a shower on his own as of late. These showers mostly serve to rinse or cool off; he's not ready to take on shampooing quite yet, but parts of him definitely come out sparkling clean. This child is pretty fastidious without much, if any, prompting from the parental units, at least not this one. Usually less than thirty seconds after he gets into the shower, he is back out again to do his business, flush the toilet, instigating the scalding water which greets him on the other side of the curtain. Being very uncomfortable with unnecessary comings and goings from the slippery tub/shower situation, the boiling water, together with the fact that Nathan informed me that the running water always makes him have to go to the "bafroom"; I divulged a big secret to him, one I was slightly uncomfortable revealing. "Guess what? You are allowed to pee in the shower!" Oh my, you would have thought I had given him the last golden ticket to the chocolate factory!

The mainstays of the routine are the music and the reading. While maybe not entirely practical long term, I wanted him to learn music to be a source of relaxation and comfort. Nathan loves music and those roles for it are but two that fit into his life, and likely would regardless of anything I did or didn't do. The message clearly has been conveyed, because if we are in the car and he asks for a blanket and music--it is a pretty sure sign that he will be snoozing in two minutes or less.

There are evenings, for various reasons, that I look forward to the end of the day. On those days I sometimes limit our reading time to one regular book and one little book--the little books are those delightful board books that you can read in about forty five seconds. Last Wednesday, we chose one such board book. It is one of my all time favorites: Put Me In The Zoo. We settled in and Nathan proceeded to look at the front cover and tell me the the title of the book as he often does. Since he is so interested in words and reading lately, I asked him would he like to read the book to me? Yes, he said he would, and so he did. Yes he did. He was two pages and thirty words in when I interrupted to see if he might like to read the book to Daddy too. Yes, he would, and once Daddy secured a spot on the bed, he proceeded to do just that. Nathan started from the beginning and spoke each word, word for word, as it was written, for almost the entire book.

Shaun is likely as certain that Nathan can read now, as he is that he has a photographic memory (mark his words). How great to be his kid, he believes in them so. I believe in them too, but in this particular case, I know that I have read that story to Nathan for four and a half years. I know he knows the sounds of all of his letters, he recognizes and spells certain words, he is logical, he pays very close attention when he wants to, and I know he is smart. What I don't know, is the mystery of exactly how a child learns to read and when it is so. I suspect there are many paths to that destination, and I am so glad to be along for the ride.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Roller Derby

Another first, well actually second time on skates, first lesson. Good thing he wore two pair of underwear! I was pretty proud of both my guys when I stopped in on the lesson before checking in at the conference I was attending today. Nathan was trying and trying again on those skates that kept wanting to come out from underneath him. He was enthusiastic, adventurous, proud and most importantly, having fun. Shaun is a wonderful father and is typically very careful. He was careful today too, it's just that he moved away and even looked away when he realized Nate was doing better when he wasn't holding onto Daddy. Simple enough, but in practice, it can be a pretty difficult task to let your kid fall on their behind numerous times even when it's for their own benefit. Nice job Daddy-O.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Mommy, are we lost?

There are map people and there are not map people. For most, I suspect maps are a simple necessity to get from point A to point B, but some people get hours of enjoyment poring over them; and some can take but a glance and miraculously find the most obscure destinations, really it's quite magical to the likes of me.

Personally, I am a mapquest girl. I love everything about it, except of course the actual map part. If you're a map person that doesn't make sense. If you are not a map person, you get the genius that is mapquest. If ever I ask a human being for directions, it is a most disappointing exchange for all. Usually I am polite and simply glaze over and wait for it to be over. My father tries to accommodate my directional failings by telling me to go toward or away from the ocean. Seriously. I guess he doesn't understand how that is not one bit helpful, unless, of course, I can see the ocean, in which case, I can actually figure out all the directions if you just give me a minute! I have learned to ask Shaun for directions in such a way to remind him not to give me a slew of choices and that the most creative route is probably not the best one to give the directionally challenged. Thankfully, he is a patient man.

Nathan has been talking about changing rooms for months now, His current room is next to ours and doesn't have a closet to speak of so we agreed to the switch and are making slow progress in that direction. This giant map of the world is the big splurge which I actually quite like since I will never have to navigate highways and byways from it. Nathan can't wait to show it to Grandpa and is looking forward to learning all about the countries and people of the world.

Perhaps he is not quite ready to study the whole wide world just yet, as he has been most fascinated with our own addresses lately. En route to school the other day we were talking about our home address; he knows the street, city, state, and sometimes recalls the continent and planet. On this particular day I reminded him of the continent by singing the song about them he learned in Kindermusik, and then asked what planet we lived on. "I don't remember", he responded. "Do we live on Mars?", I asked. He laughed and said, "No, then we'd all be green!"


photo by Shaun, June 2009

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Rusty Nails

Monday afternoon Nathan decided he wanted to go out on our deck after school. Shaun has trained him well, especially when it comes to footwear, so he put on his shoes and then commenced to convincing me to go out and play with him. The idea of our deck is much better than the actual thing, at least in it's current condition. As far as playing out there, bring your imagination, because there is about 600 square feet occupied only by about three old flower pots, some scrap lumber, and as we found out, one rusty nail.

We were out there no more than five minutes when the barefooted momma walked right into the damn thing. Nice. Not a terrible wound, but still, who actually steps onto/into a nail? A rusty nail at that?! The only rusty nail I considered I might encounter would be in the form of a drink or maybe a twisted clown, certainly not one that had to be pulled from the ball of my foot and that would cause a trail of blood!

I won't get into all the details, suffice it to say, a tetanus shot the following day was in order. Nathan was very concerned. Each time I reassured him that he was not the one getting a shot he countered with, "but I don't want you to get a shot eadder, then it's gonna bleed". I let him know that the shot was going to help me and that I wasn't the least bit concerned with one little shot. (!) He was visibly uncomfortable in the doctor's office and while the nurse meant well, it really wasn't all that helpful for her to place my well being in his little hands by insisting that he hold my hand "so Mommy would be alright". Huh? I told him he could hold my hand but to turn away so he wouldn't have to see, just like Daddy does, cause Daddy doesn't like shots either.

Can I just say, that shot is a bitch. My arm and shoulder are completely sore and I'm achy all over. I'm holding out hope that that is in fact the effect of the shot and not a case of the actual flu coming on.

This morning, the morning after the shot, Nathan inquired several times about the status of both my foot and my shot sight, thoughtful kid. Once we were in the car en route to school, the inquisition continued. Finally, I got a word in and asked him again if he had been worried because he thought he would be getting a shot, and this time he said yes. I tried to comfort him that I would never allow someone to give him a random shot, that an injection intended for me would never accidentally land in his arm. He naturally wanted to know all of the tactics I would employ to accomplish such a feat against a needle wielding doctor; but what if this, what if that? Finally, I stopped and declared, "Honey, you don't have to worry, I'm watching out for you." His, were the last words on the subject, "Thanks Mommy."

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Intubation by Pasta

The other day Nathan was eating penne pasta for dinner. I was going about my business in the kitchen when it came to my awareness that Nathan was probably done eating and had moved on to experimenting. A piece of penne was protruding from his lips, head tipped slightly back, eyes entirely crossed and fixed on it, and loud breaths being forced through the center hole. It was fascinating how bits of marinara were being spattered about the area, and I was a little curious to see how this scene might play out--oh yeah, no, I wasn't actually curious at all.

"Nathan, please don't play with your food."

"But Mommy, I'm just breathing so I don't die."

Aside from this display, he keeps me aptly wrapped around his little finger with his often generous dinnertime compliments, such as this evening when I tried a new recipe for Mediterranean Meatballs.

"Mommy, what did you put in these meatballs to make them so yummy?!"

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Open House ECD

Sunday, was Open House at Nathan's new school. It seems we couldn't have found a better teacher for our little music man. She sings with the kids everyday, he literally comes home with new songs daily! Not only does she read to them, she tells them stories and often the singing and stories are accompanied by complimentary food, for example, they tried porridge to go along with Goldilocks' saga last week and coconut cream pie in honor of my favorite song thus far.

The kids alternate "jobs" in the classroom, as in life, some are more sought after than others. So far Nathan has been 'chair pusher inner', which I am told is very boring; 'snack helper', though it sounds good, turns out your services are only needed in the event the snack table runs out; the big granddaddy of them all so far has been 'bell ringer', where not only do you get to ring the triangle, but you get the illusion of control over your classmates, what's not to love?

When asked if we had specific areas of concern for Nathan, in this last year before kindergarten, we responded that academics were of little worry--that we were more concerned that he find his way and his voice on the playground and generally with his peers. Ms L told us she was not at all concerned, that he interacted throughout the day through all sorts of experiences. She told me that he clearly makes his needs known and if he wants to join in the circle time conversation, not only does he join, but he often will stand to speak and make an announcement of what he has to say. In fact he did just that during the circle we shared at open house, and that was with plenty of extra adult strangers. (As it were, tomato worms in the garden were eating up the harvest.) So it seems the pendulum may have swung.

Ms L indicated that Nathan was more interested in the Language part of the classroom than Mathematics right now. This did not surprise us as he can not pass a sign on the street, a book cover, a piece of junk mail, or any words in his path without knowing what they say. Further, he questions the etymology. "Mommy, why do they call it 'arrow'? It doesn't have 'air'", and then as if I don't understand, "you know, like the air all around us." Then there was, "Mommy, why do they call it a lie-braree? They don't lie there." Occasionally, I am fortunate and he answers his own questions, in this case, "Ohhh, they call it a lie-bra-ree, cause you read there." Then there's the logic. I was driving yesterday, Shaun in the passenger seat and Nathan asked what the words on the side view mirror said. Shaun told him, you know the ones, "objects in mirror are closer than they appear". Shaun tried to give an explanation suitable to a four year old, it did not suffice, not even close. There is to be no joking or distracting of this child when he wants answers. It is serious business. He truly becomes angry if you put him off. He understood that the words were a warning, but followed up with the usual, "but how does that help?". Only after a thorough explanation of what the side mirrors are used for in driving and then an example of what might happen if one did not heed the warning, did he let it go. Holy cow, it's no wonder I am exhausted by 9am.

As we were leaving Open House, there were many signs to read and explain as I do everyday, but this time he noticed a new one right by the front door. One that he had never inquired about, one that, to my knowledge he has not come in contact with anywhere.
We were walking out the door and Nathan asked, "Mommy, why does that say 'PULL'?" I began to explain it in the best way I knew how, without instilling fear or worry, mentioning that the fire department was going to visit the school next week to teach the kids fire safety, blah, blah, blah. The three of us were walking along and he was listening intently and no doubt forming all sorts of follow up questions, when suddenly I realized, he just read that! He just read that. "Hey, do you know what?" "No, what?" "You just read that sign all by yourself!" To say he was pleased with himself would be a bit of an understatement. He delivered his most excited smile. The kind that push his cheeks up so far that his eyes are mashed into a squint, his hands come together up under his chin where he wrings them like a mad scientist, and there is jumping, yes jumping. It was really quite delightful, a moment I'm glad we all shared. He is on the precipice of his little world getting a whole lot bigger; I hope he doesn't leave me completely in the dust too soon, I'm not quite ready. I must admit though, the words "go look it up" may save my sanity if not my soul.

First Boat

On this day, we needed a field trip and fast. I decided the hottest day of the year when everyone was cranky to begin with might be the ideal time to head out to explore a new spot in East County where it is generally at least ten degrees hotter and the air doesn't move at all except from your own breath.

Santee Lakes is nice enough and I would definitely like to go back when the weather is cooler, but it won't be the place I pack up our family for a camping trip any time soon, or ever. There are five man-made lakes stocked for fishing, great walking paths, playgrounds, boating, and even a water feature playground.

The "campground" was everything we avoided when I camped with my family as a kid. It consisted of a very large gravel parking lot with ginormously long, narrow spaces to accommodate the homes on wheels that came to park there. There was nary a tent, pop-up trailer, tree, fire ring or picnic table in sight. Oddly, there was not a person to be found either, if not for the satellite dishes carefully placed and the air conditioners running at full capacity, I would have thought it truly was a parking lot. We were not to be disappointed in the vast quantity or array of homes requiring driver's licenses to view, as next we came upon several car ports the size of football fields designed to store the monstrous vehicles, vehicles that I am certain cost more than the median priced home across these United States. Ironic though it seemed, we were happy to see solar panels atop the carports, apparently generating a great percentage of the energy needed to operate the entire park. (As far as alternative energy sources, I'm thinking miles of windmills are much more attractive, but I suppose that is just a ridiculous side note.)

Monday, September 21, 2009


"You can change without growing, but you cannot grow without changing."

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

For Us...

Have you ever searched for just the right greeting card? The one that perfectly articulates what you feel? I have gone through rows and rows of cards over various occasions, quickly vetoing ones that don't suit me, the receiver, or that would just be ridiculous lies.

I have recently been through a similar experience of trying to find just the right words for an occassion, but this time, it was a bit bigger than a greeting card. I contributed to writing certain pieces of my younger sister's wedding ceremony. Much more on that later, but as I researched quotes, lyrics and various readings, I naturally had an awareness to the task at hand, but also couldn't help but consider which or what might be appropriate to capture the essence of my own marriage. What might I have chosen for our wedding ceremony or our now?

"It is wrong to think that love comes from long companionship and perservering courtship. Love is the offspring of spiritual affinity and unless that affinity is created in a moment, it will not be created for years or even generations."
Kahlil Gibran

This is the quote that resonated with me most about our connection then and now. I know clearly, the precise moment I felt it first.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Happy Grandparents' Day

Being a daughter in a military family precluded me from really knowing very well the two people I referred to as my grandparents. My most vivid memory of them is from a time they were visiting us on Wrightwood Road from Portland, I was in high school at the time. It was morning and my grandpa had likely been up at the crack of dawn drinking coffee with my dad. I'm sure to my dad's chagrin, Grandpa was probably giving him all sorts of tips on everything from the best way to stake a tomato plant to the most efficient way to peel a carrot. I suspect my dad's smile and patience may have been wearing thin by the time the rest of us arose from our slumbers. I'm sure he welcomed the sight of his mom that morning, smelling of rosewater and donned in a fluffy pink robe. Grandpa smiled and opened his arm to her as she nestled in next to him, standing with his arm around her shoulders. She looked up at him with twinkling, sweet eyes. I don't recall what had been said, I do remember the love.

I suppose I do have a second set of grandparents as we all do, but those people I refer to as my mother's mother and my mother's father. They did not do anything to me specifically to earn such titles. They did do and not do a whole hell of a lot to my mother and her siblings though. I believe it is accurate to say one did a lot more of the doing and one far more of the not doing, but at a certain point I imagine you just stop keeping track of, we'll call them, uh, disappointments. What matters most is that my mother, for the most part, has made her peace with the both of them, one posthumously, but peace nonetheless. She was able to reenter relationships of her childhood and say things that were probably important to say. She was also able to reenter relationships and not say things that she might have wanted to, but would not have benefited anyone, not even the wounded children.

Shaun has quite the opposite experience of grandparents, at least on his mother's side. He knew them well and he and his mother even lived with her parents for a period of time when he was quite young. He credits his grandad and grandpa (great grandad)alongside his dad for being the most powerful, strong, male influences in his life. Powerful and strong not in a "he-man" sort of way, but more in that they were involved, loved him, and happened to be men kind of way. They all hold a very special spot in his heart and had a great effect on his life. I'm pretty sure I have never met anyone with a greater love for generations previous, unless of course I look in the direction of my own son.

Nathan has incredible grandparents, all four of them. I guess I am biased because not only do I not think my kid is "typical", there is not a one of his grandparents that is typical either. Shaun's parents are not geographically close and we don't see them as often as we would like, but Nathan has an uncanny sense when he is in the presence of family and his reserved nature grows relaxed far more quickly with them than in the company of others. He speaks of them with the affection and familiarity that one might expect with local grandparents seen on a far more regular basis.

One of many ways they are present in our home even when they are 800 miles away is their participation in most major celebrations around here. Boxes from Granny and Grandad are found with great delight on our front porch days before special occassions. The brown papered parcels make their way onto the living room coffee table, reminding us of a celebration approaching in the days to come. It is not at all about the gifts, but they are often homemade, sentimental and always treasured.

When people learn that Nathan is the first grandchild on my side of the family, they generally give me a knowing look, shake their heads, and mention the spoiling. Depending on how one defines that word, he may well be the most spoiled little boy ever.

Afterall, he has his very own treehouse at my parents house, how spoiled is that? Yes, my dad spoiled him with the planning process, the shopping process, the construction and engineering processes. The time spent, the teaching, the dreaming, no doubt the listening, and the completing of a pretty fantastic project will probably only serve to make Nathan treehouse entitled for the rest of his life, and that is to say nothing of the fact that it has a swing, it's own flag, and a patch of grass; the nerve! Did I mention the teeter totter they created out of miscellaneous parts from around the nursery? Good gracious, physics and fun, will the coddling never end?!?

Don't even get me started on my mother, she is the worst culprit of all, that one. First of all, a child really only deserves so much love and attention don't you think? At some point, enough is just enough. What is this child going to think anyway, that everyone is going to honor and cherish him as she does? I must have a talk with her, the sooner he learns how cruel the world really is, the better. What is she thinking, what with all the outings to nature centers; to historical, fun, interesting and even mundane destinations? The cooking together, the shopping, the endless conversations, the reading, the writing, the storytelling, the playacting, the singing, the dancing, the collecting, the painting, the walking, the playgrounds, and oh so many projects. Enough already!

If all of that weren't enough, amidst the act of spoiling him, I seem to be getting spoiled too. In the beginning, I would often come home from work on Grandma Fridays to the smells of dinner wafting from the kitchen. I think she made a game of it during Nathan's nap, to try to create something delicious out of the meager groceries I tend to have on hand by Friday. Other times she was not up for the challenge and brought or bought the fixin's for her cause. She's been known to bake up banana bread with the rotten bananas on the countertop, fill our fridge with fruit in the interest of making an eight ounce smoothie for Nathan, and leave fresh cut flowers in the kitchen window. Yeah, Grandma Fridays are a pretty good gig for Momma too. As Nathan might qualify, actually, the gig is good well beyond Fridays.

Since having a child, I have had to learn to ask for help and to draw certain unfamiliar boundaries. They have been pretty immense lessons for me, made possible by their necessity and the perceived lack of choices. While sometimes difficult to ask, it is a real comfort to have my parents close when a challenge arises. Funny, it doesn't matter much which of them I might reach in these times, each snaps to action in their own way. Dad will recon the situation thinking through every important detail before acting, whereas Mom figures it out as she goes. I hear that one may have more rhythm than the other, but in trying times, theirs is a well choreographed dance designed over decades. We have enlisted their help dealing with everything from date night to kidney stones to a dying dog. We were even fortunate enough to accept their generosity at the end of a very long journey, a journey that never reached the destination we so desired; but my disappointment will always by mitigated by the awesome gratitude for one more opportunity and greater peace of mind as a result.

I did not even know to wish for something so great as what Nathan has in all of his grandparents. What a gift, one we are all most thankful for.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

1st Day of School 2009

It's the first day of Nathan's last year of preschool! We took the plunge and made what felt like a huge decision in changing schools from where we have been for the last three years. We felt that while the old school had a lot to offer, they may have been missing the essence of our particular kid. Montessori philosophy seeks to encourage a love of learning while following the child in their own interests and pace, that did not seem to be occurring with Nathan. We felt he was being shut down rather than encouraged to bloom in his own unique way.

When I was introduced to the practices in a Montessori classroom; I was told that before the child was allowed to "work" with a particular material, he had to be given a "lesson" on that material (and it's intended use). After said lesson, I was told the child could "work" with it in any way he chose, so long as it was respectful. One of our first red flags was when his teacher made a point to tell us that he turned whatever materials he could into instruments. This was mentioned as though it were a problem simply in the material being used differently than its prescribed use, not because it was loud or boisterous. We were glad she told us of her concerns; we thought it was smart, creative, and a peek into the heart of our child.

Encinitas Country Day is a few miles from my office, it is still Montessori, but with a heavy play overlay and a much less strict interpretation and execution of the Montessori philosophy. The campus feels like a handful of quaint rural cottages surrounding two huge playgrounds on two different levels. A far cry from the tiny outdoor concrete space the kids are limited to at the old place. They have at least two outdoor playtimes, which may well transition to three or four depending on drop off and pick up times. It is a newly formed class so it's small and all the kids and even the teachers are all new together. A weekly gymnastics class and a music class are part of the curriculum, to which we added a keyboard class to support his continued interest in music and specifically the piano after his encounter with one in Ventura over the weekend.

We are looking forward to the Halloween parade and the Thanksgiving Feast created from all the vegetables the kids will harvest from the gardens they are tending outside each classroom cottage .

I am here to update a week and a half in; Nathan seems very happy with the change. There has been nary a tear and he's come home singing new songs, talking of plans for tomorrow, and generally happy to go back each day. So far, we are thrilled.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Stress Management

I have been known to those close to me, or stuck with me, to be somewhat quick tempered. It is something I have sought to mitigate the majority of my adult life. I have seen some successes in those efforts and sometimes wonder if more label remains than reality, but whatever the case, I have been extraordinarily lucky in the teachers put in my path. Some that I have been fortunate enough to walk pretty fair distances with.

On this particular evening, we had just come home from the grocery store. I was trying to get the groceries unloaded, the fridge wiped clean, and the vittles put away just so. As an aside, is it a typical part of midlife to become particular about the direction food labels face in the refrigerator, or is this just my personal brand of OCD? Also, the matter of the proper size container to store leftovers in has become problematic. When exactly has this become even something to notice? Now, I notice. It mustn't be too large as to occupy too much space on the shelf or mislead me in meal planning, yet if said leftovers wind up imprinted with any design from the lid of any container as a result of being jammed in it, I am not happy. Yes, I'm afraid I have a lot of problems and I need help. I am quick to add that despite my many problems, I am very grateful for shared responsibilities in the kitchen.

Meanwhile, Nathan, our resident electronics expert and music aficionado started spinning discs at too high a volume, turning all the fans in the vicinity on and off repeatedly, letting the dog in and out of the backyard multiple times, all the while explaining all of these activities in detail to his "kids", and intermittently tossing random objects into the air exclaiming "catch!" to no one in particular.

Shaun who had helped unload the car of groceries, went so far as to unload the items from their bags onto the counter, then knew to step away. It was 5:30 and someone's blood sugar or anxiety level was going to incite a meltdown at any time and he knew it. He readied himself between the deep breathing (sighing?) going on in the kitchen and flying monkeys in the family room as a goalie might before his net; knees bent, arms forward, eyes darting, prepared to lunge in any direction.

I juggled and jostled items in my best effort to do too many things at once and as they toppled out of my hands, a "damn it" escaped my lips. The little boy that seems to have developed selective hearing, amazingly heard my frustration and though I expected a reprimand, from around the refrgerator door, I received a gift instead. Dolt that I am, I still am learning to see and accept the gifts all around me, but this day, I was stopped dead in my tracks at the thoughtfulness and presence of my sweet boy.

"Mommy, are you having a hard time?"

"Yes, actually I am."

"What can I do to help you?"

"Well you can turn off the music for 5 minutes, that would be really helpful, thank you for asking."

But alas, before the request was even made, it was done.

Not only is the little guy around here pretty amazing; the bigger one, I think I'll keep him too.

Tree of Life

There are a thousand hacking at the branches of evil to one who is striking at the root.
Henry David Thoreau

Tuesday, July 7, 2009


Tonight Nathan was helping to prepare dinner of a simple green salad and barbecue chicken pizza with Gouda cheese. He loves the Dutch delight and even more so since his preschool class was assigned Holland for International Day in May. Yes, Gouda cheese is the best and one of the things that makes it the best is the wonderful red wax that it is packaged in. A simple pleasure, but a pleasure nonetheless to peel away that wax in one soft piece revealing the mild goodness within.

Nathan was up at the prep counter, standing next to me on his chair in our kitchen. The salad was made, table set, all that remained was to assemble our pizza. Instinctively, he knew the Gouda must be freed from it's encasement unmarred, whole and beautiful. He worked slowly and methodically. Deep in concentration a question came to his mind, and for me, the Gouda will never be the same. "Mommy, is this the same kind of wax that comes out of my ears?"

Friday, July 3, 2009

What else is there really?

As we were leaving music class last Saturday, Nathan spotted a dandelion full of fluff, just waiting to be wished upon. He yanked it out of the ground, thought for a moment, took a deep breath, and blew that weed to smithereens. He answered my expectant look, "I wished for love."

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

La Tortue

"Consider the turtle. He makes progress only when he sticks his neck out."

James B. Conant

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Happy Father's Day

Last year, for Father's Day, the Arena women gave Dad a card indicating a gift had been given in his name to the Mt. Soledad Veteran's Association. For this last year, I have been all but certain he knew of the intentions behind the card. It was nothing he said or did; then or now, it was all in a look, an expression that I clearly misinterpreted. This Father's Day we revealed the plaque in his honor. We invited him to the Memorial under the premise that Shaun wanted to see the new plaque for General Patton as a precursor to our Father's Day celebration.

The day was more San Francisco than San Diego, but the rain held out for which I was thankful. We all meandered along and eventually came across the Patton stone that had been freshly mounted for Memorial Day, just days after Dad's. Seven plaques over, Nathan exclaimed, "Look Grandpa, it's you!"

First response, "Well I'll be god damned." So, yeah, I guess he might have been a little surprised.

Mount Soledad Veteran's Memorial sits atop a hill in La Jolla, California overlooking a most fantastic coastline and ocean view. The memorial consists of a twenty nine foot Latin cross at its highest point, the base of which is encircled by red brick steps leading down to a flag pole with the American Flag waving in the gentle breeze.

Between the cross and flag are six concentric walls holding black granite plaques commemorating the service and sacrifice of veterans living and deceased.

The cross itself has been the subject of legal fodder and voter consideration for nearly two decades. The debate of course being a religious symbol on public land. For now, the matter is resolved. In July of 2008, U.S. Federal Judge Larry Alan Burns ruled that the cross could remain, stating, "The Court finds the memorial at Mt. Soledad, including its Latin cross, communicates the primarily non-religious messages of military service, death and sacrifice. As such, despite its location on public land, the memorial is Constitutional." The ACLU had 60 days from the date of the ruling to appeal to the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, but it did not pursue further action.

I will not get on a rant here about the use of religious symbols on public property or the word God on American currency or in the Pledge of Allegience. This space is to honor my dad and the dedicated service he gave to our family and country. Now, there is a little space up there, on one of those walls, to honor him too, forever.

The Mt Soledad Association had many rules about the content of what could be included on the plaque. No years of service (it was 26, by the way), no indications of death in the line of duty (thank God not) and the most disappointing of all was that the name had to match the veteran's discharge papers. I knew his preference, so there was begging involved, to no avail. I got over my dismay when I noticed his middle name was also right there on the official discharge, and so, would be included. I wondered and hoped even, that in the years and generations to come, perhaps my son would stand on that hilltop and share stories with his own grandson and feel a little extra connection at the sight of their shared name.

Check out for more information on the Memorial or to find other veterans with the plaque locator.

Happy Father's Day, Dad.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009


Some months ago Nathan regurgitated some version of the perils of watching too much television, "Too much TV makes your brain go away", he informed us. Mind you the child loves television and asks for it at every lull in the day's events. Not only at every lull, but every afternoon when he is tuckered out from a long day, he must watch "100" of his favorite shows. Yesterday, in the midst of a tantrum he even asked to watch tv to help calm himself down. What an operator.

Despite the fact that certain members of the family don't approve of the programming offered by PBS and the Noggin channels--too much brainwashing--we do allow it on a regular basis, maybe too regular a basis even. A little brainwashing on the virtues of recycling and kindness is well worth saving my own sanity.

Today after it was time to turn off the tv, he decided to beg, whine and cry for more, (I soooo get how parents cave under the pressure and annoyance of the never ending whine) he brought out a new argument, "But Mommy, I have too much brains, so I have to watch more tv." Nice try kid.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009


Tuesday evening, Shaun started having sharp pains in his side. Wednesday I left him in the emergency room of a dark and drab hospital where the staff, save one, were as uninspired as the physical space that confined them. Ten hours he spent there with little to no satisfaction other than confirmation of the diagnosis that we had pretty much determined ourselves the night before with the help of Google and his uncanny ability to pinpoint the source of his discomfort pretty much exactly. A kidney stone, jagged crystallized rock dragging it's way through the urinary tract (except when it decides to impale itself into the wall of the ureter, but I digress).

He was sent home and ordered to drink his 'normal' amount of water and pass the thing at home. It was not large enough, or so they thought, to blast. From what I have learned, kidney stones are a pretty common occurrence in the ER, perhaps the nurse that told him to drink his normal amount of water was visiting from another effing planet--how about being a tad more specific with a person that, just maybe, has a tough time consuming appropriate amount of liquids for a human being during the course of a day? After all, he is there for a flippin' kidney stone!

Thursday, Friday, and most of Saturday he spent in pretty severe pain, he tried to avoid the vicodin in the beginning for fear that whatever might accompany it would be worse somehow. He quickly got over that and was requesting the next dose before the specified time, in an attempt to keep at least the edge off the pain. The bouts lasted from ten to thirty minutes at a time and were generally followed by the body falling to a deep sleep, attempting to recover.

Friday, he had a follow up appointment with a urologist who generously offered to schedule surgery to remove it in four weeks if the stone had not passed by then. Huh? Four weeks?

Saturday morning called for desperate measures; a home remedy consisting of Coca Cola and pureed asparagus--My husband doesn't really seek out vegetables, so for him to procure, cook, puree and consume asparagus with a gallon of Coke demonstrates the desperation of the situation. By that evening, with no relief, he was done. Calls were made, doctors summoned, and lots more drugs consumed. For the second time in a week, I took him to the Emergency Room. Lucky for us it was a pretty slow night and he was seen relatively quickly. Nathan and I headed back home while he was admitted, more drugs administered and surgery scheduled for the morning.

I won't go into all the many more details, the insults added to injury and the near assault I was threatened with in the ER driveway. Suffice it to say that the most impressive thing about this particular health care provider is their marketing campaign.

The stone was successfully removed as was the stent about a week after the surgery. The host of other unwelcome side effects of the experience are subsiding. He is figuring out how to manage his diet while curbing some of the culprits of his, most common type of stone. The good news is he finally has a legitimate reason to forego the beets offered by his mother-in-law on a semi regular basis. Somehow the threat of another stone is a more palatable refusal than his prior explanation that they taste like dirt...So there's that.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Wedding in the Woods

May 26, 2009, Elfin Forest

I wish them every happiness.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

So it Begins

Nathan: Can I watch tv?

Mommy: No.

Nathan: Can I have some marshmellows?

Mommy: No.

Nathan: Can I have some marshmellows while I watch tv?

Mommy: Let me think about it,

Nathan: I never get anything I want, ever.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Mother of the Year

Yes, I have earned yet another tally mark, oh no, actually two in one day, tipping the scales in my favor for mother of the year.

My child is not enjoying swimming lessons at all lately. I'm sure less so after this evening. He is also finding his voice and becoming coordinated enough to dramatically cross his arms, stomp his foot and swing his head around all at the same time while announcing to anyone on the premises that "I am NOT getting in the pool". I am pretty sure snapping fingers are in my near future. Really, I am glad that he is asserting himself, truly I am, even though this display was something containing a bit more attitude than assertion. Though I try to show him the respect that I want him to give me and others, I think I may have missed the mark when I threw him in the pool when I'm pretty sure he would have preferred that I not. Oh, yes I did. Well, kinda I did, yeah I did... I sort of dropped him back in the pool to his waiting instructor when he was contemplating whether he should jump in to her or high tail it the hell outta there. Whatever, I'm pretty sure I wouldn't recommend it, no matter the tales I have heard of people miraculously learning to swim as a result of being tossed into the deep end. Once he emerged from the water, and even after the lesson, he didn't have a word to say about it, he was not hurt in any way. Nonetheless, I undermined the security I am supposed to be giving and I can do better.

I digress. Prior to ever arriving at the pool was the battle to get there. I am so looking forward to the next session that will be taken at the YMCA facility five minutes from our house instead of the one across town. The further one is by far the nicer facility and most citizens in our fair city probably find it convenient that every flippin' freeway in Southern California converges practically in it's very parking lot. Suffice it to say, I do not. Exactly how many Clairemont Mesa Blvd exits can there possibly be in one ten mile radius, off of 4 or 5 freeways?

Again, I digress. I gave Nathan the appropriate warning that it's almost time to get ready to go, at which time he decided to throw the game we were playing all over his room, turn his radio on full blast tuned into nothing but static, squeal and whine his protests about going and finally grasped and pulled on the dog's tail when the dog moved in a direction he did not appreciate. At some point I turned the radio off and commanded Nathan to let go of the dog. I peeled five of his fingers away from Jake's tail and damned if I couldn't get him to let the other hand go. I tried appealing to his kind nature and kept repeating "You are hurting Jake, let go of him" to no avail, his stubborn streak had set in. Not able to come up with a better solution, I slapped his hand at the same time saying one last time, "You are hurting Jake." He let go immediately, shocked, I took him on my lap, the crocodile tears rolling down his cheeks, he quietly unleashed the zinger on me, "Well, you are hurting me!" Ouch.