Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Happy Birthday Thing 1 and Thing 2!

Seven years ago today our life changed in a big way. There I was at the hospital, on day 6 of my magnesium sulfate-induced stupor, when in waltzed my doctor, who looked at my most recent test results and deemed that THE TIME had come. It was close to 11p as I recall and she said, "How soon can Dave get up here?"

It's been a whirlwind ever since. I look at this picture and Eldest Daughter is being protective of Thing 1. Thing 2, true to herself, is thinking, "More bumps, Daddy. Bring it on!"

"They" say that that first year is a blur. Sadly, it was true. Fortunately the digital and video cameras have captured what our sleep-deprived brains have forgotten.

When we discovered that I was pregnant with the littlest pinks Dave said, "they're going to be the greatest thing that ever happened to us and a year from now, we're not going to be able to imagine life without them". He was right.

And so, on this day where we breakfasted at Country Waffles, then went for mani / pedis and had dinner with our extended family, I raise a proverbial glass to our gemelli, who make us laugh until we cry (and I try not to pee in my pants, remember, I've had three kids ...)

Monday, December 29, 2008

TIT - This is Tahoe

Did you see Blood Diamond? Leonardo diCaprio's 2006 blockbuster on the moral conundrums of the international gem trade? It was interesting and fast moving, and diCaprio is one of the most talented actors of our generation. In it diCaprio's character often says "TIA" which means "This is Africa." It's the cynical mantra he and his colleagues toss around to explain how things are. I have my own take on this, Tahoe Style. TIT. This is Tahoe.

Situation 1 We had DSL put into our condo recently. Other condo owners have it. It took us two hours on the phone with Exwire plus two visits by Exwire to our condo to get it working.

Situation 2
Dave went to a restaurant in the Village last week and ordered a Hot Apple Pie. He asked the bartender if he knew what one was. Yes, the bartender said. The drink arrived at room temperature and with a lemon garnish. Dave asked if he could please remake the drink to be hot since it's a HOT Apple Pie and to garnish it the traditional way, with whipped cream. After 15 minutes the bartender returned with the drink, again at room temperature and this time missing the Tuaca. Dave gave up and drank it this way.

Situation 3Ski team meets at 8:30a. For perspective, there are 700+ kids on ski team this year so it's a big group that meets. The ski team director updates the web site every morning by 7a so families know if there is a delayed start, the weather is too bad to ski, etc. There is also a phone number you can call, a hotline. On Day 2 we showed up at 8:30a. The start had been delayed until 9:30a because the Funitel is not yet open due to avalanche control. But neither the web site nor the hotline reflected this. Fortunately it was no big deal for us. Our condo is literally two buildings from the meeting spot. But what about the families who drove in 30 minutes from Donner?! The picture at left is taken from our patio. The tree on the far left is where ski team meets. It's that close.

Situation 4On Hwy 80 there are large digital signs that advise motorists of road conditions. They say things like "Chains Required to Pass Summit. Checkpoint 2 Miles Ahead". But there is no checkpoint and there are 2WD cars whizzing by.

This kind of stuff really used to bug me and it still does down in the Bay. But after seven years of spending a good amount of time in the land of the B Team, I've come to accept things the way they are. This is Tahoe.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Tahoe Top 10 (Winter Version)

1. The view of the people skiing down the mountain as seen from our warm and cushy family room sofa.

2. Daily lemon, butter and sugar crepes from Le Petite Creperie. (Pictured here are our downstairs neighbors and Thing 2.)

3. The way we all leave our doors ajar in our condo development and the kids and adults go in and out of each other's places casually to play, drink and share mountain stories.

4. Snow Angels

5. The groomers on the mountain in the middle of the night, which I can see from our bed, and which I spend far too much time watching when I should be sleeping.

6. The way fresh snowfall clings to the trees and looks like frosting on everything else.

7. Running on the treadmill in our fitness center, watching the snow fall into the swimming pool.

8. Children's ski clothing. It gets more adorable each year.

9. A windless day on the slopes with light powder and blue skies.

10. The ski team tradition of affixing gummy bears to your helmet.

Friday, December 26, 2008

The Chairlift Incident

We're just back from a week at Tahoe, during which there fell 5 1/2 feet of snow. It was gorgeous and the skiing today was epic. I have a lot to say about this trip but let's start with ski team for now.

This is our first year on Squaw Valley's ski team. Eldest Daughter is cake: easy going, flexible, happy. Thing 2 is a different story. Let's recap.

Day 1
Conditions: Sunny. 10F. No wind. Groomed terrain with light dusting of powder. This is as good as it gets for December skiing.
What her coach says to me at pickup: She needs a really good night's sleep.
What she says to me at pickup: I am not happy!

Day 2, after 11 hours of sleep and a high protein breakfast
Conditions: Snowing lightly. 20F. Windy. Fresh powder.
What her coach says to me at pickup: She loves powder!
What she says to me at pickup: I had a great day Mom!

Day 3
Conditions: Snowing moderately. 25F. Windy. Fresh powder.
What her coach says to me at pickup: We had a little Chairlift Incident.
What she says to me at pickup: I was not going to ski down that run, Mom.

Apparently her group went up the Exhibition Chair. Thing 2 could only see the steep way down. So while her coach and teammates unloaded, she did not. The slacker lift operator did not notice the 6-year-old downloading. So down the mountain she went, solo. And, by the way, at Squaw no one bothers to pull down the guards on chairlifts and there was no way she could have done it herself anyway.

Meanwhile her coach is screaming at her to hang on and skiing under the chair preparing to catch her if she falls. I have no idea where the other kids were. Thing 2 is yelling, too, because she is really scared. Eventually the chair got to the base of the mountain again and she got off, all pieces and parts intact.

Knowing how Thing 2's mind works, I am certain this won't be the last Incident in her future.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

I scream, you scream

Each June I am overcome with an urge to make fresh peach ice cream. It's an annual event, one signified by the arrival of perfectly ripe, fragrant peaches in the farmer's market.

We are a family of ice cream lovers. Since childhood my family has consumed more than its fair share of the summertime staple. My father had Foremost McKesson Dairies as a customer way back when there was such a thing.

Even people who marry into our family adore ice cream. For the bridal shower I threw for my future sister-in-law, we hand painted ice cream bowls and played "match the name of the Ben & Jerry's ice cream to the flavor." She won. My brother selected his bride very carefully. We've given ice cream makers as wedding gifts more times than I can count.

Eldest Daughter would have nothing to do with one of my favorite uncles, Syd, until he offered her a taste of his chocolate ice cream in the middle of her second year. This is especially funny as she had every reason to adore him from the get go: he was CEO of the toy company Hearthsong at the time!

My SIL, that fabulous gal that my brother married, outdid herself this week. For Hanukkah, my brother's family gave The Pinks the Cuisinart Soft Serve ice cream maker. In pink of course. I would never have thought to give children this as a gift but let me tell you, they went wild. I went wild. And, as you'll recall, I have a thing for appliances. It has three dispensers for toppings and we can't wait to mix and match, in search of the perfect combinations.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Luau in December

The littlest pinks have December birthdays. We don't celebrate Christmas so the whole issue of December birthdays competing with Christmas is irrelevant. Chanukkah is a small holiday in the grand scheme of things so really, we're fine with the December birthday situation.

The thing is, children who have December birthdays typically have indoor birthday parties. In the last six years we've done Build a Bear Workshop twice, Habitot, Gymboree and a princess party where the princess came to the house and turned all the kids into royalty.

This year I had a luau in mind. This is the year that Thing 1 really got into swimming and this being California, kids learn to swim early and strong.

Yes, it's winter. But gosh darn it, we were going to swim! Fortunately, I found a local swim school with an indoor pool to rent. And that's where we spent Saturday afternoon -- throwing a Hawaiian-themed party for two nearly seven-year-olds.

It was one of my better ideas. Sweetening the deal was the fact that it was probably the coldest day of the year thus far. The kids had an absolute blast as was evidenced by the deafening amount of screaming. There were all these amazing pool toys the kids had never seen: logs, slides, large floating mats, animals. The swim school staff did a great job and everyone took a swim test before being let loose in the water. There were four lifeguards for the 24 kids and another staffer orchestrating check in, F&B, etc. The kids swam for an hour and a half then we did goldfish, Pirate's Booty, Swedish fish, juice boxes and Baskin Robbins ice cream cakes.

We kept with the theme for the favors by doing flip flops with Pez dispensers. I loved the parade of bathing suits, too. The kids have such perfect bodies without vanity or self-consciousness at this age. I'm a huge fan of seeing them in teenie weenie bikinis although our kids didn't seem to want to wear theirs on this particular day.

The swimming, coupled with an hour of vigorous indoor soccer that morning, had even Thing 2 into bed at a decent hour. In one of my less brilliant moves, we invited my four-year-old niece to spend the night before with us. She and Thing 2 only slept from 11:30p to 7a. I suspect that a repeat of this is not in our immediate future, as much fun as it was for all involved.

All that remains of the birthday party is a list of gifts for us to properly acknowledge, the aforementioned gifts, a trash can full of recycling and a bunch of really happy memories. Success!

Thursday, December 11, 2008

In over my head

I'm still working on Thing 2's Class Auction Project. It's a little more ambitious than I'd anticipated and I'm starting to panic at how much is left to finish.

Do know what this block right here is? It's the Mustang Soccer Complex. See? Red and white? Green fields to the side? Use a little imagination please as I'm in that frightening place where I don't know if this quilt is going to be my best or worst ever.

I was feeling much better about this endeavor before I talked to the mom who is doing Thing 1's class project. She's also doing a quilt and she's a professional quilter. She really and truly makes her living designing patterns and fabric. She has my fantasy job. And her work is gorgeous! But I'm not competitive or anything ...

One last comment about this time-suck of a masterpiece. Eldest Daughter looked at it tonight and said, "I know the perfect place for it: the laundry room."

Monday, December 8, 2008

Train and Tahoe

Last week was frenetic. We came back from Atlantis late Tuesday night and were home less than 72 hours before heading up to Tahoe for ski team orientation.

But before we left for Tahoe we did the Niles Canyon Railway Holiday Train of Lights. The train is covered with thousands of lights, both inside and out, and makes a 75-minute round trip through the Niles Canyon between Fremont and Sunol. There are Christmas carollers and Santa and a whole lot of holiday cheer. It's completely kitschy and a blast. We took my parents with us this year, and also our train aficionado friends Seth and Lori. (If you want to do this this year, check craigslist for tickets. This is one of those things that sells out within hours of the tickets going on sale.)

After the train ride Friday night we drove up to Tahoe. We won't be doing that again anytime soon. It was midnight when we arrived and we were all a little cranky the next day. I gave in and made a morning Starbucks run to get the kids expensive drinks whose names had 14 syllables.

Tahoe was gorgeous -- blue skies, warm. No snow. That's only a problem if you had planned to ski. Which I'm sure the merchants at Squaw really wanted. The mountain did open but only one run open and it was on snow they'd made the night before. Essentially the ski team kids tested their equipment and left. Here's a picture I took off our balcony. Ski team is going to be fun; Eldest Daughter and Thing 2 will do it. There are 700 kids on Squaw's ski team. We bought really cute ski team sweatshirts, too.

We drove home Saturday night and spent most of Sunday in our PJs.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Happy Birthday Mom & Dad!

My parents are in the midst of celebrating their birthdays. This is pretty cool, actually. His is Dec 5 and hers is Dec 6. When they were younger they used to celebrate at midnight on Dec 5. Not sure if they do this now.

My parents' first date was in St. Louis when my mom's sister was visiting her college roommate, who happened to be my dad's aunt. They reconnected a few years later, at Mizzou, and their fate was sealed. After a few years in St. Louis my father took a business trip to Colorado. His head cleared, his allergies went away and the next thing you know, my folks high tailed it to San Jose and have lived on the west coast ever since.

My dad is now retired and spends a lot of time with his horses. He has a long history of volunteering for Jewish causes and serving on boards. His membership in the Sierra Club probably dates back to around the time of my birth and he has championed environmental issues long before green was in vogue. He's also got a green thumb and we love eating our way through my parents' garden.

My mom works as a paralegal in the city. She was one of the very first people to graduate from SFSU's paralegal certificate program way back when and has been at it ever since. She is a good sport, supporting my father in his adventures (including that Alaska stint) and creating a normal home and homelife, no matter where the zip code. She loves her five granddaughters and is such an amazing cook that I bring my own Gladware when we have dinner at their house so I can take home the leftovers. (Sorry, Dad!) She is a good friend to many. I often read the best of her book club's picks.

Happy birthdays Mom and Dad!

Friday, December 5, 2008

Holiday Card Pictures

Our holiday cards have not yet mailed. Actually, I just approved the proof yesterday so it'll be a while. I fall into the camp of those that like to handwrite notes to the out-of-towners so they take more than just stuffing, addressing and stamping. I have the good fortune to be married to a man who happily does the stuffing and stamping so that part is off my plate.

Let's face it: it's hard to get a flattering picture of three kids. Or the entire family. I should have started this process around Halloween but no, I knew we were going to the beach over Thanksgiving and I had the perfect ocean shot in mind. I even hauled my laptop with us so I could order the cards from there, thus starting the process a full week earlier. Didn't happen. I got a great shot of the kids in front of the Christmas Tree at Atlantis but being Jewish, it was questionable how many of my relatives it would offend. Ditto the shot of them decorating gingerbread men at the Christmas Faire.

And so the holiday card picture is of the kids in a big chair outside the casino. It was re-do, actually. The first shot was better but one of The Pinks forgot to cross her legs and well, use your imagination.

The picture above is the one good one we got of our entire family on vacation but it's not the holiday card photo. Who cares what Dave and I look like?! People want to see the kids. I'm disappointed if people send cards without the requisite photo.

Also -- for the record, I do not send out a zillion cards. I hand address them and mostly send them to people we do not see often enough.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Homeward bound

Our Bahamian trip is coming to an end. As I type this it's pouring rain. It's not the drizzle we get at home; it's a full-on downpour that attacks you from all sides. I feel bad for the cruise ship visitors; they expected a day of sun and fun on the water slides. The Pinks still want their hair braided so we'll venture out to the beach-side huts in a bit to see if the braid ladies are working today. I'm hopeful.

We've done some great things this trip. We spent most of a day at the beach. Thing 2 just loves the water and played in the waves for hours. I never tire of watching her body surf, dig in the sand and dive for coral.

The resort put on a Holiday Faire one night so the kids made Chanukah plates, glass bottles with snowmen and decorated gingerbread cookies. There was a band and we danced. I'd be remiss if I did not mention how beautiful the property is done up for the holidays. Okay, Christmas. There's something a little odd about palm trees spiral wound with lights but I'm getting used to it and developing an appreciation for it.

Surprisingly, some cousins of Dave’s are here this week, too. Dana, Mark and their two sons live near my sister-in-law in Southern California. Apparently Eldest Daughter met their 12-year-old son last summer and they are friendly on iChat. So the two of them have hung out a bit. He is sweet, even with the littlest Pinks. We walked through the aquarium together. I look forward to seeing more of them when we’re in LA in December.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Dolphin delight

The highlight of the trip for The Pinks was the Dolphin Experience, which they did with my MIL. Atlantis has its own cay with 31 Atlantic Bottlenose Dolphins, some of which were rescued from Hurricane Katrina.

We learned interesting factoids including that they have 72 teeth, they live to between 40 and 45 years and they are up to 12 feet long.

The littlest Pinks' experience was with 12-year-old Atlas, who they kept calling Agnes. They got to pet him and feed him fish. They also got to kiss him. Of course Thing 1 passed on this, claiming she didn't understand the instructions.

There is just something about dolphins and whales. They are such magnificent, graceful animals to watch.

Eldest Daughter also did a Dolphin Encounter, but hers was in the deeper part of the cay and included swimming with Atlas and being propelled by him while she hung on to a kickboard.

They all looked pretty cute in the wetsuits. I can see them as surfer chicks!

Saturday, November 29, 2008

The lay of the land

We’re at the Atlantis Resort, which covers about 1/3 of Paradise Island. Paradise Island is connected to New Providence Island by a bridge and Nassau, the Bahamian capital, is on New Providence Island. Do you remember where Anna Nicole Smith’s daughter was born and where her son died? That was Nassau. The taxi driver pointed the hospital out to us today when we went into Nassau for lunch. Frankly, it looked pretty dumpy. I’m hoping not to have a medical emergency here.

Atlantis is a big place. On Day 1 I took a run around the property. It’s easily a mile end to end. There are 12 pools. The 63-acre waterscape is made up of 11 million gallons of fresh and salt water. The 11 exhibit lagoons have more than 50,000 sea animals representing over 200 species including sharks, stingrays, sawfish, lobsters, turtles, manta rays and dolphins.

There are 21 restaurants on the property, including Starbucks. But they don’t take Starbucks cards. There’s a Jamba Juice, a Ben & Jerry’s, a Johnny Rocket’s, a Nobu and a Mesa Grill.

There’s the requisite spa and fitness center. There’s a casino with four mammoth Dale Chihuly glass sculptures. I popped this picture, forgetting that in general, photography is not allowed in casinos. No one seemed to mind.

The Atlantis Marina is filled with sparkling white yachts. The kind of yachts that have full-time crews to keep their teak oiled and which have names like Serenity and Outta Touch.

Between 9a and 5p, the cruise ships deposit day passengers and flood (pun intended) the resort. For a $110 USD fee they can enjoy all the amenities that we do.

There’s lots to do in Nassau, although I doubt we’ll leave the resort again on this trip. It’ll be impossible to see and do everything in the week we’re here. I’m beginning to understand why many of the people we encounter are return visitors.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Thanksgiving on Paradise Island

If Disney did an oceanside, water-themed resort, Atlantis would be it. The sky is blue. The sea is turquoise. The breeze is just so. The grounds are manicured. There is no litter in sight. Everyone you encounter is wearing a perfectly pressed uniform (be it the gardeners, lifeguards or restaurant wait staffs) and greets you with a smile.

We spent Thanksgiving much the way we did the day before – on the water slides and in the ocean. My mother-in-law is here with us, which is a win every way you look at it. She’s great with the kids, a huge fan of beach resorts and such a seasoned world traveler that she makes us look like rank amateurs.

Dave and two of The Pinks took me on the Lazy River. That’s a misnomer! Four foot rapids do not make for a serene ride. Dave and I were in one tube and the kids were in another. Toward the end we took different forks in the river and ended up going down The Falls, a four STORY water slide that includes a dark tunnel. Dave lost some hearing due to my screaming but he promises that it’s not grounds for divorce.

There was a Thanksgiving Fair so the kids decorated t-shirts, ate cotton candy, made waxen hand molds and tied pillows. We opted for traditional Bahamian fare for dinner instead of turkey, which was easy to get.

We’re on the same time zone as the east coast and have been sleeping like babies. All of us. Today the first of us was up at 9:30a and that was Dave. By the time we’re out the door breakfast is long over. We need to work on that! As we walked to the pool I thought about what I’d be doing if I was at home: stressing over the state of the house, reviewing the schedule to time the dinner right, thinking about getting the bird into the oven, chopping things. And then I looked up at the sky, framed by the coconut trees, and thought: this isn’t so bad.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Things I am thankful for

Here are just a few things that I am grateful for this year, besides the surreal number of waterslides and perfect weather here in the Bahamas.

1. The Pinks, who make me laugh and cry in much more frequency than I did before I had kids
2. Dave, who is truly my better half
3. My parents and brother, who I love more and more as the years pass
4. Red and blue skies at sunset and turquoise blue water
5. Friends who make me laugh and friends with whom I can cry
6. Books and movies you can lose yourself in
7. A US Passport
8. August tomatoes, balsamic vinegar and blue cheese
9. The great outdoors, especially snow-capped trees and mountains
10. Pointy-toed shoes

That last point seems shallow but it's true. Happy Thanksgiving!

Friday, November 21, 2008

Comfort me with apricots

Anyone out there a Ruth Reichl fan? Ruth is a former LA Times and NY Times restaurant critic, now the editor of Gourmet magazine. She's written three books that I've loved and a cookbook that I never use.

My late paternal grandfather was married three times. His third wife had a son from her first marriage, Michael Singer. Michael is married to Ruth. The last time I saw Ruth was sometime in the 70s.

She is a gifted storyteller and I truly enjoyed the adventures she shares in her books. In her last one, Garlic and Sapphires, she mentions an apricot upside down cake that was the only thing her mother-in-law made well. I don't remember my grandfather's third wife cooking much at all so I took this opportunity to email her for the recipe.

Much to my surprise, two hours after I pushed SEND, Ruth responded to my email with the recipe. It turned out to be her first mother-in-law's creation. But the apricot cake is good, really good, and I'm sharing it.

Betty Davis' Apricot Upside Down Cake
1 stick butter
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
1 large can apricots
3 eggs, separated
1 cup sugar
1 cup flour
1 t baking powder
1/2 t salt
1 t vanilla
  • Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  • Melt the butter in 9 or 10 inch cast iron skillet (or a baking pan).
  • Stir in the brown sugar and the nuts.
  • Arrange the apricots, cut sides up, in the pan. Reserve the liquid in the can.
  • In a large bowl beat the egg yolks.
  • Add the sugar, mix well, and beat in 1/2 cup of the apricot syrup. Add vanilla.
  • Mix the dry ingredients together. Mix into the yolk mixture.
  • Beat the egg whites until stiff and fold into the batter. Pour over the apricots.
  • Bake about 1 hour.

Friday, November 14, 2008

A quilt

Earlier this year my mother-in-law took an around-the-world cruise.

Before she left on this four-month adventure, I offered to make her a memory quilt of the fabrics she found on her trip.

She came back with some gorgeous textiles. Colorful prints. Subtle ones with leitmotifs. Nubby ones. Large scale ones. Teeny tiny ones. My favorite is a combed black cotton with a complex, vinelike purple floral design. And then came the challenge: I had to figure out what to do with them. Some people do crossword puzzles. Some people do Sudoku. I problem solve via quilting. All these yummy, disparate fabrics and I had to find a way to tie them together.

My mother-in-law probably thought I forgot about them. But no, I spent two months mentally wrestling with the design after she brought them home. I went to Danielle's and looked through all her pattern books. I went through all mine. I looked online for inspiration. And then Eldest Daughter and I went to the local quilt shop and it took her less than 5 minutes to pick out a suitable pattern. Who knew that she had the eye?!

This week I hand stitched the binding on the quilt and voila!

I do have to say, for me, fabric and color selection is a good part of the fun in quiltmaking. Visualizing the final product based on the choices you make in the fabric and pattern is a huge part of the creative process. I've taken more than one class in color theory in order to do this. This is the first quilt I've made where I've not selected the fabrics myself. Are you following my very subtle drift?

Thursday, November 13, 2008

The year Thanksgiving went missing

I just came home from volunteering at the elementary school. I've never volunteered in the library before but someone in one of The Pink's classes needed a sub so I gave it a shot. In case you're short on time, I'll net it out for you: I won't be doing that again anytime soon.

The librarian was less than enthused to have me because I hadn't been through "Library Volunteer Training." Oh well. I told her that I was a sub for someone else. Apparently the most desirable subs have been through training.

She directed me to the electronic catalog of books and showed me the search she'd pulled for Christmas books, and how to help the kids find them in the shelves.

I politely, very politely, asked her why the students weren't looking for Thanksgiving books since Thanksgiving was the next holiday. She brushed me off and said, "Oh, we're doing Christmas now." This made me unhappy since Thanksgiving has such great associations and it's NEXT on the calendar.

I said, "What kind of message does that send the students if we skip the holiday about giving thanks?" For this I received a dirty look.

Someone must have peed in her coffee this morning.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Puppy Love

Thing 2 loves animals. All kinds of animals. Big ones like horses. Small ones like ladybugs. She views the silkworm unit at preschool the greatest moment of her academics to date.

My parents have a male golden retriever who was bred this year. Thing 2 is happy for Monte, she thinks he got married. (I'm not going there; she's only six.) She was especially happy that Monte had seven puppies as she had her heart set on one of them. Of course this was never going to happen. Dave has allergies and our home and heart are quite full with three kids. Could we handle anything else? Not sure. Not really looking to find out, either.

There is nothing cuter than a golden retriever puppy. I took these pictures when we visited one of the puppies this weekend. I think my parents were a little sad that they decided not to get one from the breeder. Thing 2 is very sad. She tried to convince them to get one for her, and to just keep it until she was old enough to move out and raise it on her own. (She is very independent so in all honesty, she probably envisioned this being a year, two at most.)

While we on the subject of dogs, which is not a topic I give thought to very often, have you noticed that dog people are really into their dogs? My brother and SIL often take their dog along to visit my parents (30 minutes from their house) when they go for dinner. Likewise my parents bring Monte to visit Bodhe at my brother's house. My brother's ILs always bring their dog when they come to visit their grandchildren. It just seems to be part of the dog owner culture. I can't tell you how many times I've made a makeshift water bowl for someone's dog when they've popped by to visit.

One of my clients, a single woman with no children, had a dog with a serious medical issue. Thanks to her large amount of disposable income, love for this dog and the UC Davis Veterinary Hospital, this dog has a happy, normal life.

Tahoe is very dog friendly and I think many more people would ask to use our place up there if dogs were not verboten.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

They missed the point.

The response, verbatim and transcribed from my voice mailbox, from the salon where I got rooked:

Hi Leslie this NAME at the NAME Salon in Walnut Creek and uhm I’m sorry it’s taken so long to get back to you about your letter that you sent uhm late uh last month but SALON OWNER's NAME was out of town in Japan uhm for a few weeks and then she’s been doing hair shows so uhm she hasn’t gotten a chance to open her mail uhm but she wanted me to give you a call and just uhm talk to you about your experience and we’re happy that you’re happy with the services uhm but we wanted to let you know too that we uhm as far as the color, uhm we do have people who aren’t quite as expensive as Karen and also that first appointment is more expensive uhm, because it takes a little bit longer to formulate and everything but she just wanted me to call you and talk to you about the options and everything uhm if you would like to come back we’d love to see you uhm if you would like our phone number here is PHONE NUMBER and uhm feel free to give me a call if you would like uhm thank you so much uhm once again my name is NAME.

Sadly, they missed the point of my very nice letter, which was to advise them that the twenty-something colorist's fee was above obscene and that patrons should be advised of fees for services in advance, especially if they are astronomically above market.

I went back to my former colorist yesterday and my hair looks just fine -- the garish orange streaks are gone. Now I must tackle the issue of whether I ditch Amazing Alex because I find his employer's business practices questionable.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Possibilities

I have a dumb smile on my face. In today's mail came The Pinks passports. It's the second set for the twins and the third for Eldest Daughter. In the US, children's passports are only valid for five years.

Thing 1's passport picture looks like her: perfect hair, sweet, tentative smile. Thing 2's picture looks like her, too: hair in need of a good combing with a lopsided, face-eclipsing smile. Eldest Daughter's picture looks like her, too: relaxed, confident. She knew exactly what it meant the day we had her picture retaken. This is such a contrast to their first passports: bobbly baby heads that we had to hold up to the camera.

Having current passports means we can wander the world with the kids, expose them to things they can't see here and introduce them to the anonymity of being in a place where you do not understand the words swirling around you. I will always remember Eldest Daughter's first adventure outside the US. She and Dave came with me to Switzerland while I helped with a client's President's Club trip. I met them at the park one afternoon and watched her play with another little girl, seemingly oblivious to the fact that they could not have a conversation with each other.

Travel is one of our favorite things and just the thought of being able to hop on a plane anywhere all together makes me giddy.

The picture above could have been taken anywhere. It's a universal experience: children eating ice cream, a summertime ritual. It was taken in Isle sur la Sorgue, home of the famed weekend antiques market in Provence.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

And then it was November

We live in one of those neighborhoods where very few people trick or treat. It's not that the houses are spaced too far apart or that the driveways are too steep. It's just that it's a small neighborhood not near very many other houses. Thus people go where the goods are easier to collect en masse.

This year, for the first time, Eldest Daughter didn't even trick or treat with us. She went to a Halloween party. Even they didn't stay in the neighborhood where the party was; they headed for an area near the elementary school.

Our strategy is to do our neighbors' houses then drive a mile to one of those areas that turns into a block party. We park just outside of it and walk in.

The main drag is barriered off with police on either end while golf carts carrying young children and their brown-bag-bearing parents whiz up and down the street. Each house on this street is well lit, with some combination of mock graveyards, ghosts, goblins, pumpkins, large spiders and mummies hanging from the grand old oak trees. The Pinks love it. And so do we. It has a surreal vibe, like you're on a movie set. It was also raining off and on this year so that added to the spookiness factor.

This year we went with two sets of neighbors, one of whom was nice enough to have us all to dinner first.

And since Halloween fell on a Friday night this year, all the better!

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Recent Random Revelations

1. Parent-teacher conferences are not my favorite. The Net Net: Thing 1 loves writing. Thing 2 is competitive. Eldest Daughter is in the advanced math group and her teacher is struggling with how she will teach advanced math and regular math at the same time. I'm not comforted by this.

2. I much prefer the low-key synagogue we belong to now rather than the ones of my childhood. Also, The Pinks have to go to the bathroom more times during the short family services than they do the rest of the day combined.

3. Some wacko tried to sue L'Oreal because she dyed her hair brown with its product and then came to the realization that blondes have more fun.

4. Many people show more cleavage at Halloween parties than they do at the pool.

5. Pro Prop 8 demonstrators really get under my skin. I hope their children come out or that their spouses decide to switch genders, like my friend C's husband did.

6. The new school principal did not deliver on her promise eight weeks ago to put temporary computers in Eldest Daughter's classroom to replace the ones that were stolen the first week of school.

7. The season finale of Project Runway was not worth watching because the remaining designers were lame and I'd not be caught dead in their clothes.

8. When I am stressed, I crave warm baked goods like Banana Bread and also eat huge bowls of carb-laden pasta.

9. The owner of the salon where the colorist took me for a ride has not yet responded to the very nice letter I wrote her three ago alerting her to this horrific event. (This post refers to the event, not the real letter I wrote the salon owner which was, trust me on this, really nice.)

10. Having a set of twins makes people think you are an expert in assisted reproduction technologies.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Winners' Circle

It was a good day in the House of Pink!

Eldest Daughter was elected to Student Council. This is especially sweet as I ran for class secretary when I was in fifth grade and lost, partly because I spelled secretary wrong on all my posters. I lost to Jeff Hawkins and clearly this still bothers me. Strangely, I was at a park 200 miles from here last summer and struck up a random conversation with another mommy. She was married to Jeff. Fortunately he was not with her. I claimed not to remember him.

Dave played in a golf tournament benefiting our local soccer program today. He's a pretty good golfer in general although frankly, I wish he'd play more. He belongs to a prestigious club in the city and does not get there very often. I sent him to short game school at TPC West 10 years ago and although he loved what it did for his game, he hated it. Fast forward to today: his foursome won!

I am so proud of them both. We're celebrating in our house tonight!

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Minnie Me?

Dave is brilliant with pumpkin carving. We have books of patterns and a set of special tools just for pumpkin carving. Each year he takes great pride in turning our pumpkins into masterpieces. This year he had a template created from the My Friend Paris book series and here's the outcome. Pretty good, huh?

Tonight we went to our neighbor's Halloween Party. Everyone needs a neighbor whose house is decorated perfectly, who is a seemingly effortless hostess and who is downright nice. That would be Tracy. Did I mention that she has two beautiful daughters, too? And abs that rival Dara Torres'? It was a nice evening catching up with some of our neighbors and having adult conversation. If you need window treatments, check her out. She made most of the drapes in our house, and Thing 1's bedding.

As a bonus, Rosa sat The Pinks. We hadn't seen her in a month or so and not only were The Pinks thrilled to hang with her, she organized their drawers just the way they like them and finished putting away the laundry. I miss Rosa!!!

As is typical of fall Saturdays, we spent part of the day at basketball and soccer. Thing 2's end-of-season soccer party followed the game. (I have got to stop volunteering to plan things!) In between sports we saw Eldest Daughter's former dance teammates perform at the Halloween Street Fair. Seeing the dances but no longer being a dance team parent gave me an odd sense of disconnect, almost an out-of-body experience, which I'm trying not to dwell on. It just feels like that part of our life was a lot longer than six months ago.

It was another Chamber of Commerce Day here -- blue sky and in the 80s -- which made for a perfect night on Tracy's patio but a hot day on the soccer field and dancing on the asphalt.

Interestingly enough, there were two artisans selling glass pumpkins there. I took a special interest in these. One created pumpkins in brighter colors, less lifelike and more artsy. The other employed more sophisticated glass-blowing techniques and used more texture than did Cohn-Stone. Having just become a fan, I viewed these all carefully then decided that I liked the ones we procured last weekend best.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Dancing Queen

For the last four years, not including this year, Eldest Daughter has danced competitively.

This has meant that she has taken 5 dance classes a week and spent six to eight weekends out of town for dance competitions or performances. The weekends prior to those events she had extra rehearsals. We spent very few weekends skiing these past four years because winter is competitive dance season.

The friends we made through dance team are very special. Not only were her team-mates her friends, the mommies I spent many weekends with were mine. It was at the Tremaine dance competition that Shanta and Julie changed my life by introducing me to The Brow Bar. I perfected my knitting skills and taught others to knit while at dance competitions. I became known as The Carpool Queen, the mommy who orchestrated complex and efficient carpools to minimize our drive time between school and dance class.

Eldest Daughter learned to be comfortable on stage in front of as many as 1,000 people, how to be a part of a team, and how to turn it on even when she was hopped up on Motrin, fighting the flu. She took classes from famous choreographers and grew from a timid six-year-old to a confident ten-year-old with stage presence. She got a tremendous amount out of the experience and for that I am grateful.

The highlight of each season was our annual trip to Disneyland and the performance on the Carnation Stage. We made it a family event, having the cousins and grandparents come a few times, too.

This year she decided that she'd had enough. Between dance, Hebrew and an academic math team, the child had no downtime. I'm glad she was able to make that decision. She loved performing and being on stage. (My eyes used to fill with tears when she performed -- the joy on her face was that obvious.) She loved her dance buddies, older team members who served as mentors to her. She loved running around in sweats and slippers with her friends at competitions and staying up late to watch the high schoolers perform. She loved the awards they won every single time and it made the long hours worthwhile.

But she did not love rushing from school to dance through dinner and into the shower and to bed. I thought she'd miss it but no, she's filled her dance card (bad intentional pun) with a community theater workshop and guitar lessons.

Tomorrow is the first dance event of the season, a performance at our local Halloween Street Fair. I'm a little sad that she won't be there on stage. But I'm also looking forward to watching the other kids, and to being a groupie.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

An different kind of pumpkin patch

Last November my husband spotted some blown glass pumpkins in a San Francisco gallery. They came many sizes and shapes and we had purchase paralysis so we didn't buy any. He's been thinking about them ever since. So much has he been thinking about them that he researched them extensively and nearly a year ago calendared where we'd spend October 18, 2008.

These particular pumpkins are made by the Cohn-Stone Glassblowers in Richmond, California. And every October Richard Cohn and Molly Stone open up their studio and set up an outdoor pumpkin patch to showcase their designs.

Today was the day! We met our friends Fabio, Danielle and Gian Luca there. The Pinks were fascinated by the glass-blowing process and even the wild one stood in front of the artisans for a long time, just watching the liquid glass take shape. The mother in me was thrilled that we escaped without inadvertently breaking anything.

Have you ever seen glass being blown? It's magical and we're enthralled by it. Dave and I have been to Venice twice and Murano, the island outside of Venice where all the Venetian glass is blown, twice. The first time we were so overwhelmed by all the choices that we bought nothing. On our second trip, for our 10th anniversary, we did pick out a piece together.

This pumpkin patch was truly a sight to see -- hand-blown pumpkins in shades of orange ranging from nearly salmon to day glo, and red and gold and bronze and green and white and pink. There were glass birds and even some glass fish in the fountain. The smallest ones were perhaps 3 inches across and the largest were closer to 18 inches.

We each picked out a pumpkin and now we have our own little pumpkin patch nicely displayed on the half wall between our kitchen and living room.

After the studio tour we headed to the Richmond Marina Park and enjoyed the city view while eating a picnic lunch. It was a great Fall afternoon!

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Choices

On Monday I made my semi-annual trip to Safeway. (How could that be? Yes, I really go to Safeway just twice a year. Dave is much better at grocery shopping than I am and he doesn't mind doing it. This is reason number 759 why I married well. The monotony of buying staples bores me to tears. I save my shopping for our farmer's market, which I religiously do every Saturday, Trader Joe's, and the occasional butcher or fromager. He does Costco, too, because I cannot be trusted in the book aisle.)

During said trip to Safeway I stuck to my list and emerged with just 14 things. Why? The economy. Sport shopping is out of vogue.

Our suburb is pretty insular. Sure there are FOR SALE signs on quite a few pieces of residential real estate and you just know a bunch of them are in foreclosure but the parking lot of our elementary school is still filled with gas-guzzling SUVs and women in designer duds, myself included.

A few weeks ago a friend confessed that she was walking away from her house. With her husband, two kids and golden retriever. This hit me hard. Someone I know is really and truly affected by this.

I want a new car. I don't really need a new car but I still want one. A year ago I figured out which one I wanted yet didn't execute because it was the same hybrid SUV that everyone else wanted. And I wasn't going to pay above the sticker price for it. Today that car is still in demand but even if it weren't, I wouldn't buy it. It just doesn't feel right.

It's about making choices right now. We're doing ski team because that's family time spent in our vacation home, where we pay the mortgage regardless of whether we use it or not. We're going to the beach over Thanksgiving because that's been planned since before the economy went south. But we're not seeing the San Francisco Ballet Nutcracker this year, nor indulging our every Amazon fantasy, something we've done mindlessly in the past. One Click Ordering? My former best friend!

I did write a letter to the owner of the salon where I got taken for a colorful ride. It's been two weeks and she hasn't responded. She probably doesn't know what to say. Now I'm faced with the decision of whether to dump Alex because I disagree with his employer's business practices. (For the record, my letter was very nice, not at all like the letter I composed in my head to the colorist.)

Fortunately the Pinks are at a good age. There are so many things we can do without large-scale conspicuous consumption. The youngest ones get a weird thrill from cleaning; one washes windows, the other has a sweeping fetish. This I must capitalize on.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Frigid Fall

The Pinks and I did 24-hour turn to Tahoe this weekend. Dave stayed down in the Bay, having volunteered to work the local LPGA event.

Fortunately or unfortunately, Thing 2 had an 8a soccer game Saturday morning so following the game, donuts and a quick bubble bath, we headed north.

En route we learned that while McDonalds' are very clearly marked from the freeway, Burger King's are not. And the only fast food joint that all three Pinks will eat is Burger King. When we finally found a Burger King, it was home to a pro-Prop 8 gathering of picketers. As you'll recall, I'm adamantly against Prop 8, which bans same sex marriage in California. I made faces and shook my head violently at the sign carriers as we drove by and told my kids that they could marry whoever they wanted and that Mommy and Daddy would love them and their spouses just the same. I'd make a great lesbian mother-in-law!

We did our ritual stop at Ikeda's in Auburn, where I stocked up on marinated tri tip, pesto chicken, stinky cheeses, guacamole and enough strawberries to get us through the weekend. This picture of Eldest Daughter and Thing 2 taken there is a rare occurrence; they don't often hang together. Thing 2 is wearing one of my most favorite shirts. Each Pink has one and it reads: Sister For Sale: Potty Trained & Ready to do Housework. At Ikeda's we also picked up Eldest Daughter's friend from sleep-away camp, who joined us overnight.

The seasonal ski renting exercise at Granite Chief was fairly efficient and we arrived at The Snow House, which is really a mountain-facing condo, just before dinner. Them skis are sharp -- I did a good number on one of my fingers while loading them into the car. Mid October is about as off season as it gets at Tahoe. The Village was nearly deserted and I literally think there were no other occupants in our 31-unit building. It was cold and dark, and getting colder and darker. We literally ran back and forth to the Auld Dubliner for dinner then curled up in front of the fire until bedtime.

It was 18F when we got up the next morning. For the record, a blue sky does not mean it's warm outside. After a quick breakfast and tidy up, we fled the mountains. One of the reasons we rushed back to the Bay was to see my mother-in-law, who was home just a few days between cruises in the former Soviet Union and Europe.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Provisioning

It was a tough week.

Monday was Parent Teacher Conferences at school. There we learned that Thing 1 writes well, Thing 2 is competitive, Eldest Daughter's teacher has no clue how she's going to teach basic and advanced math in one class and that our new principal failed to deliver on her promise five weeks ago to temporarily replace the computers stolen from Eldest Daughter's classroom on the second day of school.

Thursday was Yom Kippur and I enjoyed celebrating the holiday with my family. However, we arrived at services just before they started and the prayerbooks were all gone. Not being able to read along gave me extra time for reflection of the year's actions. It was a good experience but one I'm not up for repeating any time soon.

I'm two weeks into a new client engagement. This is a client I've worked with before and the work is interesting but a new project means I'm drinking from the firehose. I go through this every single time and always recover but it's stressful nonetheless. At least I do not work in financial services.

Tonight, however, I am preparing for a quick run to Tahoe and back. All ski team members rent their equipment during one weekend and this is it. I love this picture of Thing 2 on the Funitel last season. The Pinks and I did a provisioning run to Trader Joe's we stocked up on bottled water, fruit leather, granola bars, cereal, pasta, pasta sauces and nuts. Just the thought of fresh snow makes me giddy.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

The Class Auction Project

The Pinks go to a public elementary school that raises more than $250,000 each year through its auction. The funds supplement things our tax dollars do not cover: a full-time librarian, art, computers, and a music program.

Each classroom is expected to do an auction project. This year I'm leading the effort for Thing 2's class. I did Thing 1's last year and Eldest Daughter's the previous year.

I've seen some incredible creations during our five years at this school. I would love to have taken home the lemonade stand but alas, none of my children were in that class. There have been hand-painted game tables, intricate birdhouses, tiled garden benches, filled bookshelves and toyboxes. The quality of the output is mind-boggling. A granite sculpture sold for a few thousand dollars one year. It was gallery quality.

This summer I finished my 30th quilt so I guess I can call myself an accomplished quilter. I used to have free time to quilt but having twins changed all that. I just quilt for special occasions now: significant birthdays, babies of close friends, etc.

My favorite quilt story is of the one that now hangs in Neeracha's house. Nine years ago I saw the most beautiful quilt hanging in Habitot, the children's museum in Berkeley. It was up for raffle. I bought 20 tickets because I had to have it. A month later I panicked and realized how heart broken I'd be if I wasn't the winner. So I went back with my camera and photographed it from every angle. Then I studied it long enough to figure out how it was made, drove to every fabric store in the East Bay to get the right materials and replicated it. I had it all done except for the borders when Neeracha became pregnant with her second child and I offered to make her a quilt.

We spent the better part of two hours in her local quilt store picking out a pattern for her quilt and all the fabrics. At the very end of our time together that day I pulled my precious quilt out and chose the right border for it. She took one look at my quilt and said, "I want that one." And so I gave it to her and made another one for myself. I still love it. For those of you who have been to our house, it's the one hanging in the hallway between Eldest Daughter's and Thing 1's rooms. (No, I did not win the Habitot raffle.)

The last quilt I made was for Thing 2 -- it's a bright log cabin design made of fabrics we bought in France. There's a picture of it above.

I've decided to help the kids create a quilt for this year's class auction project. It's been a challenge narrowing down all the options. In first grade the children study community so the design is based on our community. My inspiration came from Freddy Moran and Gwen Marsten's Collaborative Quilting book and this weekend I pieced the first five houses and some trees. They're happy and scrappy and I can't wait to see how it all comes together.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

I'm Having Twins

Scared you, didn't I? I've already had a set.

A few years ago Dave came up with the idea of Eldest Daughter writing children's books. She has plenty of fodder, after all: twin sisters. Together, we wrote the first two books in the My Friend Paris series and they are now reality. I'm Having Twins is the story of the year I was pregnant with her sisters. My Twins Are Coming Home is the story of what her life was like after they were born. They are sweet stories, written from the perspective of a four-year-old. It's been a fun family project, all the way down to art directing the illustrations together and having hypothetical conversations about who will do the voiceovers in the big screen version.

This afternoon Dave received an email from an associate producer at The Bonnie Hunt Show wanting to learn more. Wow. We are officially in over our heads. I called media-savvy Kim and, during a commercial in the vice-presidential debate, she agreed to be our publicist. Stay tuned. Does anyone know where to get media training for a 10-year-old?!

P/S They are for sale on Amazon. If you want signed copies, email Dave.


Tuesday, September 30, 2008

The FebMoms

Eleven years ago I became pregnant with Eldest Daughter. And at that time I joined a listserv of women due in February 1998.

Since then, our list has dwindled from more than 200 women to a core group of 30 who live on three continents and in four countries.

We've seen each other through subsequent pregnancies and miscarriages, divorces, moves, career changes and major lifecycle events like sending one's firstborn to college. We've agreed to disagree on politics and religion, and child rearing philosophies. Many of us were fortunate to take our relationships from cyberspace to real life.

Four of us are here in the Bay Area. After a few years, Jen and I discovered that we lived close to each other and shared mutual friends. We have participated in three Nike (Half) Marathons with other FebMoms. The picture above is of Jen, Deb, Adri and me at dinner the night before the 2006 race. Whenever I see a picture of Deb I am reminded of one of Jen's better quips: we have to enjoy our facetime with Deb because she's so fast that during races, we only see her a$$.

We saw Kathy this summer in Boston. Kim and I do similar things professionally and even though our politics are polar opposite, I love her and understand why she votes the way she does. Tory and her family showed us a great time in Hong Kong several years back. Abby, our founding list mama, spun me the most incredible wool that I am knitting a sweater of.

It's hard to articulate what this group of women has meant to me over the past decade. I know them better than I know most of you. They are quite privvy to the sick innerworkings of this brain. (Please, sisters, be kind and take it all to the grave.) There is always someone online to discuss a school situation, global warming or a new use for avocados.

My heart shattered in a million pieces when one of us lost her second pregnancy in month 5 then shattered all over again when she and her husband split up because of his violent demons. I cheered when another became reunited with the daughter she gave up for adoption. I pray for one as she parents the children of her own teenagers.

Paula was a FebMom. Jen called me and broke the horrific news. I then phoned Kim, although it was close to midnight in Georgia. I called her cell, just in case she was blissfully ignorant and asleep. She answered on the first ring and said, "I knew you were going to call."

You would have liked Paula. Born in Massachusetts, living in Connecticut, and supporting her family through her work as the assistant provost at a major university, she had this clear-cut, take-no-prisoners way about her. She didn't couch her opinions; you knew what she thought and you knew where you stood. But she was never rude; she spoke with ease and grace. I respected that about her. Like me, she was a liberal Jew. I miss her.

The FebMoms list has been especially active this week. We're sharing stories about Paula, and making plans to help Rich and Jack, her surviving husband and son. I think about Paula even more today, Rosh Hashana, as Rich and Jack go to the synagogue without her. At least they will be surrounded by friends and family.

I am sad, so sad that she is gone. But I am a better person for having known her.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

An open letter to my short-lived colorist

Dear Karen,

I really enjoyed the time we spent together Wednesday morning. You are a perfectly lovely conversationalist and my hair looks fabulous. Transcendent. Alex gave me yet another brilliant cut and the color you artfully applied really completes the look. Thank you.

However, I was totally appalled when I discovered that said color, applied over a two-hour period, cost me $360 not including the tip. My bad. I should have asked before I underwent the magic treatment. I am not the kind of girl who can justify spending over $500 for a cut and color every eight weeks. It just seems socially irresponsible. And it also seems rather high for services rendered in Walnut Creek. After all, you are a twenty-something early in your career, not a celebrity stylist in LA.

So again, thank you. I hope you understand. I really did enjoy the VIP treatment. I just wish I'd known I was getting it while it was happening. I have to go back to work now.

Best,

Leslie

P/S The gal walking around the salon offering strawberries and Brie at lunchtime was a nice touch. The Brie was flown in on its own Lear from France, oui?

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

And on a lighter note

Paige just did a great post on her definition of successful spousal gift giving. This is something I've been meaning to blog on for a while.

Let's review some of the things Dave has selected all by himself as gifts for me:
  • An ice cream maker with cookie cutters to make ice cream sandwiches
  • A trip to Las Vegas to see Elton John
  • An iPhone
  • A diamond solitaire necklace
  • A larger stone for my wedding ring (I didn't know I needed one but it was a great surprise.)
  • Diamond earrings, presented in Venice on our 10th anniversary. Why did we go to Venice for a long weekend? Because Dave asked me if I'd had any regrets during our marriage and I said that I wished we'd been on a gondola ride when we were in Venice the first time, even though the downpour was torrential that trip.
  • A gold M-shaped pin, presented on the thousandth day we were married
I've got it good. The man can shop. I love appliances and electronics as well as jewelry and he knows it.

This appliance thing is worth a true shout out. Appliances was supposed to be the focus of this post until I made a list and realized how good I have it in the bling department, too. I really like appliances. And I like being given appliances. I don't like doing the research on said appliances so this makes me even more grateful to receive them. KitchenAid Mixer. Hello Kitty Waffle Maker. Crepe Maker. Rice Cooker. Roomba. They are my friends.

I got him a trash compactor one year and I think he liked it. We needed it and I also had the cabinet retrofitted in our kitchen so there would be a place for it.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

RIP Paula Sossen Lawson

I can't breathe.

One of my friends died Sunday night. Leaving behind a husband and a son the same age as Eldest Daughter.

How could this be? Forty-somethings don't die of heart attacks and leave behind friends and family who expected to grow old with them.

I have to pull myself together.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Walking in Memphis

Put on my blue suede shoes
And I boarded the plane
Touched down in the land of the Delta Blues
In the middle of the pouring rain
W.C. Handy -- won't you look down over me
Cause I got a first class ticket

But I'm as blue as a boy can be
Walking in Memphis
Walking with my feet ten feet off of the Beale
Walking in Memphis
Do I really feel the way I feel

Mark Cohn recorded Walking in Memphis. This song has always made me teary-eyed.

My mom grew up in Memphis and left when she went to college. She then married my father and they kept moving West. My mom had and still has a huge extended family in Memphis; I've been to Memphis more times than I can count.

Not long after Dave and I were married we went to visit my grandma there and my Uncle Irvin took us out on the town. My mom's older brother is a colorful character, a criminal attorney and the only of my mom's siblings who stayed in Memphis. That night was memorable. My uncle seemed to know everyone and we enjoyed Rendezvous' special dry rubbed ribs then went to BB King's place on Beale. Although the club was packed, we were shown into BB's private lounge above the stage, where we watched the blues quite comfortably.

My grandmother passed away in Eldest Daughter's second year and at the funeral someone asked me if I came to Memphis often. It was then that I realized that I'd visited five times in the previous eighteen months.

Memphis has a lot going for it. Mud Island has a half-mile riverwalk that's a tribute to and model of the Mississippi River. The Peabody Hotel has its famed Walk of the Ducks. Every day at 11a, five mallards are led by the Duckmaster down the elevator to the Italian travertine marble fountain in the Peabody Grand Lobby. A red carpet is unrolled and the ducks march through crowds of admiring spectators to the tune of John Philip Sousa's King Cotton March. The Memphis in May Festival features the Beale Street Musical Festival one week and the World Championship Barbecue Competition another week. The Elvis Presley Birthday Celebration is an annual four-day event. Oh yes, and we've done it all. I'm not sure why my mom ever left, actually. Memphis is one happening place.

I've been thinking about Memphis a lot this week. My uncle Irvin was just diagnosed with lung cancer. I know a fair amount about lung cancer, thanks to the unfortunate situation of a close friend, whose brother-in-law, father and cousin are all fighting it. Wendy's brother-in-law spent part of last summer as the physician-in-residence at the summer camp Eldest Daughter attended.

And so another day ends and I watch the pinks sleep, counting my blessings.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Who are our soldiers?

They are the sons and daughters of people like you and me. They may even be you and me.

One of Eldest Daughter's classmates has a father in the military. I saw him in Safeway last week. I really wanted to thank him for helping keep our country safe but I couldn't get the words out of my mouth. Instead I went back to my car and felt bad about it.

In the last year I've met three people through work who have sons deployed. We've sent them care packages. It's a very small thing to do.

It seems we run into soldiers when we stop at 7-11 or McDonalds en route to Tahoe. The pinks have no problem talking to them. And I'm grateful for that. I just try to pay for whatever they're eating or drinking and hope that they understand our appreciation. How pathetic is that?!

Two years ago I spent a long weekend in Savannah with my girlfriends, celebrating my 40th birthday. At a piano bar we came across a group of boys who were shipping out in a few days. They were drinking and chain smoking and singing at the top of their lungs. I knew that in a few days I'd be home with the pinks and they'd be thrust into a world beyond their wildest dreams, and not in a fantasy sort of way. We bought a round for them that night.

The thing is, we didn't used to know anyone in the armed forces. Sure, Doug went through college on the Navy and then served seven years, most of them in San Diego, unlucky guy. He missed our wedding because he was on tour. But he was really the exception.

Not anymore.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Dan the Man

Dan could easily be your forty-something next door neighbor. The father of your child's best friend. He's a clean cut family man. With a wife and two kids. Who lives in the suburbs. And has a Golden Retriever. He goes to church on Sundays. And is athletic. He coaches soccer. And works in tech. Mr. All American. Living the American Dream.

Dan spent his childhood years in Florida and from there went to West Point. After that he served as an Army Ranger who earned a MacArthur Leadership Award and was deployed in nine countries. Post-Army he went to HBS. And got into tech. Where we all became friends.

On October 12 Dan leaves for Iraq. Where he will serve our country again. For 13 months. By choice.

When my husband asked Dan why a forty-something like himself was returning to the active military Dan replied, "It's my duty. When I left the Army I made a conscious decision not to resign my commission in case something like this happened."

You are our hero, Dan.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Pin cushion

I was the proud recipient of a flu shot today. Mid-September seems a little early to get one but there I was in the doctor's office and they were available so I indulged. I don't go out of my way to get a flu shot but if I happen to be at the doctor and they're there, I go for it. Anyone who has lost two weeks of their life to the flu understands. You're completely useless for Week 1 and Week 2 you're building your strength back up and trying to get back into your groove. It sucks. If you're one of those people who can keep up appearances while you're sick, I applaud you. I am not: I retreat to the bedroom and my husband keeps the proverbial balls in the air. One year he missed a work-sponsored program with Jack Welch because I had the flu. The saint didn't give me any grief for it either. I married well.

Two years ago my primary care physician left private practice and returned to his first love, research. Dr. Chuck was an amazing doctor, one of those MDs who never rushed you in and out of his office. My father found him first and by the time I'd discovered him, his practice was long since closed. I begged him to take me on and surprisingly, it worked. When I was pregnant with our our twins and in the hospital for the long haul, doped up to stop those pesky contractions, my father happened to be in his office. Dr. Chuck logged in to the hospital's computer system and explained to my father exactly what was going on with me. We all thought that rather cool.

When Dr. Chuck retired, I gave a lot of thought to who to replace him with. In the end, I chose the family practitioner I'd been seeing off and on at the local urgent care center. Dr. Hollander's hours suit me, noon - 8p Tuesday through Saturday, his bedside manner is friendly but not too friendly, and he seems to know his stuff. As a mother, taking care of my own needs comes last so I especially dig the odd office hours and the fact that there's an on-call doctor one additional day of the week. As a business person, I think this is very customer centric and I appreciate that.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Sharing the love!

Today was one of those days that I got up early and ran. I showered then hopped on a 7a conference call with people named Rebel and Tweedy. (I am not making this up.) After that I dolled up and drove an hour to the South Bay for a meeting. And then I drove home.

When I walked in the door at 1p I was starving! As I dashed from the car to the fridge, I stumbled over a box sitting next to the front door. It was from Lynn, a sorority sister, who lives in Milwaukee. I was really hungry, though. So I debated leaving it on the porch until I stuffed my face. But then my curiosity got the best of me and I hauled it inside and ripped it open. Boy was I glad I did!

Godiva Chocolates! Lunch!

Next to the signature gold box was a sweet note, written in her perfect architectural script, congratulating me on Some Assembly for Women and for letting her be a part of it. (You did me the favor by providing a quote for it, sister!)

This unexpected gesture made me think of two things.

First, during the very first days of Eldest Daughter's life, someone sent us a Cookies by Design bouquet. It was beautiful and it tasted great. Poor Dave never got to see it in its full glory because by the time he came home from mailing the baby announcements or doing a Target run or wherever he was, I'd eaten half of it. Again, it was lunch when I really needed it.

Second, this completely unexpected and wholly appreciated gesture makes me want to pay it forward.

If I inspire you to do this, too, comment here so we can all share in it!

Thanks Lynn! I love you!

Thursday, September 11, 2008

We shall never forget

Seven years ago today the al-Qaeda terrorists hijacked and crashed commercial jetliners into the twin towers of the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.

I was pregnant with our twins at the time, and on bedrest. Like most Americans, I watched the life-changing events unfold on TV and watched and watched and watched, becoming increasingly agitated as the details came out. I will never, as long as I live, forget the footage of people jumping out windows of hundred story buildings. What must they have seen to cause them to choose death that way?

When I flipped on my laptop this morning I quickly realized what day it was. My first conference call was with a woman in Arlington, Virginia. I thought to mention it to her but did not since it was our first meeting, and I'm sure she was confronted with reminders all over Washington today. I wonder if she thought about it, too, while we were on the phone. After that call I met my brother for coffee. He mentioned it.

In a few hours I'll pick the pinks up at school. And my husband and I will give them extra big hugs.

We shall never forget.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Ten things I love about Fall

1. Seasonally appropriate accessory shopping.

2. It's still warm during the day but it cools off at night so you don't have to run the dreaded air conditioning and get a horrible night's sleep because you wake up every time it goes on and off.

3. The Thanksgiving issues of all the cooking magazines will soon appear!

4. Halloween -- everyone's favorite holiday!

5. You can sleep with the windows open and hear the crickets.

6. My mom's apple pie. I'm not sharing the recipe because I still think about trying to launch a business with this recipe-to-end-all recipes.

7. You can begin to reduce the amount of time in between pedis.

8. Boots. High ones and low ones and suede and leather and rain boots (but not in California).

9. The leaves turn colors.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Red Rubies, Rainbow Unicorns and Ladybugs

You know those friends who are just amazing people? After you spend time with them you just feel better?

Kymi is one of those people. She started out as a client and then became a friend. The Pinks and I were fortunate enough to spend time with her, her husband and their French-speaking 5-year-old son this weekend. We've had playdates with them before. This little boy plays well with girls and boys and he's as fun to hang with as are his parents.

They invited us to swim at The Claremont, where they are members. It was well over 100F in our suburb so post soccer we were happy to head over the hills and enjoy their company and temps a few degrees cooler.

The Claremont has a sweet membership setup: food and beverage, including full bar, towel service, a great view of the Bay Area, valet parking, and three pools and a hot tub. This is Golden Bear territory so they even had the game on in a room with big, comfy sofas. Although I'm still hot and tired, I have a smile on my face, the smile of someone who experienced just a bit of magic.

Where do you find Rainbow Unicorns, Red Rubies, Shining Stars, Ladybugs, Pink Pansies, Flower Power? On the Girls U7 soccer circuit.

Thing 2 had her first games this weekend. She really got into it, in spite of the heat. I love watching her run around. She's in it for the camaraderie as much as her love of running. It's high fives at every opportunity.

Thing 2 wears her hair in a fairly short bob so we don't do a lot with it. However, there were some great soccer tresses being sported on the field -- pony tails with soccer ribbons, scrunchies, etc. Thing 2 wants to grow her hair out so this may be in our future.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Must teachers be warm and fuzzy?

As I mentioned in my last post, Back to School night took place this week.

I met Eldest Daughter's fifth grade teacher for the first time. She was just fine. She's the most senior fifth grade teacher at our elementary school and she seemed to know her stuff. My daughter happily goes to school each morning so I'm good with that.

However, as the parents were exiting the classroom that night I asked one, "So, what'd you think?" She responded, "She's not exactly warm."

This brings the question, do teachers need to be warm and fuzzy?

Here are the teachers I remember:
  • Mr. Zunich, the 7th grade math teacher who is now married to a friend of my mother-in-law's. The only reason I remember him is because I occasionally see him at social occasions.
  • Miss Tighe, the Spinster who taught 7th grade English and drilled sentence diagramming into our heads, a skill I've not used since 7th grade.
  • Miss Something-or-Other, another old maid, my AP English teacher who introduced me to Russian Lit, something I still enjoy today but would never admit to the Commie whose posts are set up to autodelete on my Febmom listserv.
  • Ms. Reeves, my magazine editing professor in college, not because the class was scintillating but because she was such a strong female figure and had done so many interesting things in her career.
Were any of these teachers warm? No. In fact, the first three were decidedly not warm. But they stuck with me.

Of course none of these were elementary school teachers. Each of my kids had a wonderful kindergarten teacher, but being a kindergarten teacher is a very special skill indeed. Eldest Daughter loved her second grade teacher and I did not. She ran hot and cold, and played favorites.

At what point are our children equipped to get their coddling solely from their adoring parents and grandparents, and no longer necessitate having it handed out in the classrooms?

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

The Alaska Years

The frontier state is in the forefront of the news this week thanks to Senator John McCain's selection of Governor Sarah Palin for his vice presidential running mate.

Alaska. Been there, done that.

When my brother was nine and I was fifteen and leading a self-absorbed teenaged existence in California, my parents dropped The Bomb. They had just returned from a trip to Maui, one of very few trips they took without me and my brother during our childhood. Apparently they had made a stop in Anchorage on the way and in one short month, we were moving there. I remember the reveal just like it was yesterday. My father, being a smart man, told me at the same time that I would get a full new cold-weather wardrobe once we arrived. (He delivered on his promise. We spent several hours with the Nordstrom Personal Shopper upon arriving in Anchorage.)

My father was the adventurous sort and had always told us that the year he turned 40, we'd sell our California house and sail around the world. We moved to Alaska instead. You see, up until that point my father was a career IBMer and Anchorage was much more interesting than Armonk. I give him credit there.

Once we got over the initial shock and got all those inane questions out of our systems (Does the snow ever melt? Will we take dogsleds to school? Are we being punished?), it was a pretty sweet existence. We moved into an English Tudor style house in a subdivision, bought a 4-wheel-drive station wagon and learned to shovel snow. My mom, always the good sport, worked as a paralegal just as she had done in California.

We had a lot of visitors during those years. Pretty much everyone who had ever wanted to see Alaska came up during the summer. When Grandma Molly came to visit, she brought an entire suitcase of Kosher meat since there was no Kosher butcher in Alaska. Eldest Daughter recently found a picture of me, my father and Popa taken on a fishing trip during this time. Love that 80s hair.

I went to a regular 'ole high school, one of six in Anchorage, and made friends. About 25% of my high school classmates when on to college; the other 75% planned to stay in Alaska and make their livings there, where a college education was not necessary to live well. This easily put me at the top of the academic ranks, whereas I was closer to the middle back in California. This gave me a huge advantage when it came to college applications. Plus I had the geographic diversity factor going for me. Downhill skiing was much more accessible than it was in Northern California and, along with a pull toward chairlifts, I developed a love for the mountains and respect for the wild. Did you see the movie Into the Wild? That's really what rural Alaska looks like.

For kicks, let's review some basic Alaska facts:
  • The population of the entire state is roughly 600,000 people. That's the same as for the city of Charlotte, North Carolina.
  • There are 14 men for every woman.
  • Alaska has 586,000 square miles of land. That means that it's 2.5 times larger than Texas and 488 times the size of Rhode Island.
The first year was a huge adjustment and I'm not just talking about the random moose walking down the streets. On June 21, the Summer Solstice, the sun sets at 2:30a and rises at 3a. This means it never gets dark enough to turn on your headlights. Conversely, on December 21, the run rises at noon and sets at 12:30p. You don't realize how much you live by the cycle of the sun until it's altered. We learned to pay close attention to time after that first summer when it was 9p before my mom started going through the motions of making dinner.

We learned to fly fish, dip net and eat game. We dipnetted up to our chests in hip waders to scoop running salmon. Reread that sentence. It's correct as written. We learned what things to ask my dad to bring back from his frequent business trips to the Lower 48. We learned that Honolulu is an unofficial suburb of Anchorage. We learned about the Permanent Fund and that no one goes to school or work on the first day of the Nordstrom Half Yearly Sale. The summer I turned sixteen I got my first real job, answering phones in the circulation department at The Anchorage Times. The hours were miserable but the schedule afforded me lots of time to hang out with my friends.

There are no pictures of my high school graduation. They sank to the bottom of a remote river, along with a whole bunch of other things, while my dad and brother were on a fishing trip the following week. There are, however, pelts from the Black and the Brown that my father took during those years. If you have to ask what a Black and Brown are then you're better off not knowing.

My parents made amazing friends during The Alaska Years, many that they keep in touch with today. Cheryl and Fran live not far from my parents in California. Donna and Bob died tragically in 2002. Sandy and Anita are still in Anchorage, as is one of their daughters, now a practicing OBGYN. We see a lot of Sandy and Anita; they love the Bay and my parents served on volunteer boards with them for nearly 20 years after they moved back below. Gary and Roxanne-With-The-Purple-Hair are still up there somewhere. Grace lost her battle to cancer during my 20th year but not before giving me the best cheesecake recipe ever.

I lived in Anchorage full-time for 2 1/2 years until I went to college down below. Then I returned for two summers. During the second summer my father's assignment ended and we moved back to California. Most people would have flown but in typical Malcolm fashion, we took our 28' Bayliner down the Inside Passage for six weeks. This was before the Exxon Valdez disaster so I'm grateful to have been places that no longer exist. When I think of Alaska I recall best the scenery - the snowcapped mountains against a blue, blue sky with Anchorage at the very base of them, the glaciers we saw and heard from our Zodiac off Prince William Sound, the doll sheep on the mountains en route to Girdwood.

Every now and then I come across another former or current Alaskan. My friend Denise, who I met in the hospital down here while we were both antepartum patients, used to live there. One of my clients has an office in Anchorage and I was shocked to discover that I knew one of the men there from my high school years.

I look forward to taking our kids there. Thing 2 will enjoy the wide open spaces. Thing 1 will be shocked at how small the Nordstrom is. And Eldest Daughter will be amused by my friend Birdman Brian, who wears more makeup than I do, even on the days I am dressed for client face time.