Sunday, August 31, 2008

Flight Delay

Michael's flight home from Hong Kong was delayed by over six hours which was not happy news for the boys who were expecting him to be here this morning.

The boys and I got to spend the last Saturday of summer vacation at urgent care, where Benjamin got treated for an infection instead of frolicking at the beach, park, or any other place that doesn't require a hospital gown.

The kids were good sports though and we're off in a little bit to pick Daddy up! But where will we go if we can't go for guacamole?

Saturday, August 30, 2008


A few weeks ago I found a tee with a drum set on it for Ben on clearance at Old Navy. Nathan excitedly asked where his tee with a guitar on it was... To which I confessed that there wasn't one. So while out doing a little first day of school outfit shopping, I found a deep chocolate tee with a string of black guitars and a single silver one. The best thing was the $2.80 price tag! I brought it home and presented it to him and got the most excited boy you've ever seen.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Time Out

Early this evening Ben threw a nuclear meltdown of a tantrum. I sent him to his room for five minutes to get himself under control. When I went to get him out, he was sound asleep. No way to wake him up.

This put a slight damper on my plans for the evening which included having two wide awake children, so instead I went to plan B, which was to order pizza and have it delivered.

Nathan and I had a picnic on the living room floor while Ben continued to saw logs.

In other news, only two days until Daddy returns! Thank goodness for the Internet, web cams, and "all you can eat" international calling plans! What a difference from 2001 when Mike first started doing international business trips! Now we can talk to Daddy on the computer and see him while we hear his voice. The future of my childhood is now here! The only bad thing is the time difference, Michael is 15 hours ahead of us. Ben thinks his dad is in the future, which is incredibly cool to a five year old. I think it's hard getting up early in the morning so I can talk to my hubby before he goes to bed at night. He got to go to a fancy grand opening gala for a big show in Macau and we had to buy him a suit (which was an adventure all of it's own). I made Mike promise to take a photo of himself to send me. He's such a handsome fella. Fortunately I own a fancy dress that matches that tie, so we'll have to find something fancy to do wearing our dressy duds.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Please and Thank You!

Our lawn is an exotic mixture of weeds. Which according to our lease agreement must be kept watered. We water it, and then the gardener puts weed killer on it and it turns brown. So we water it some more and it turns green just in time for the gardener to put more weed killer on it... you get the idea. I don't play the "If we owned this place I'd__________" game any more because we know our time here is limited (110 days! 15 weeks!). So I just water the lawn.

Without fail, the boys hear the sound of running water and they come running! Tonight it was about dusk and rapidly cooling off when I walked outside and picked up the hose. And out they came, wanting a turn watering the grass. I said, "Say please!" and when they did, I sprayed them down, fully dressed, much to their unexpected delight!

Then it became a game. They ran up and down the sidewalk yelling "Please!" and "Thank you!" at the top of their lungs while I aimed at them like the carnival game at the fair. Hopefully the neighbors think that my kids are just exceptionally polite. I did give them a nice warm bath when they were finally shivering, turning blue, and had audible chattering of teeth (but still begging for more!). As you can see, the street got watered quite nicely. The lawn, not so much. Tomorrow is another day!

Fine Art for Boys

Nathan and Ben both created some interesting works of art today.

Let's have a look, shall we? Here is Benjamin's masterpiece:

This was from a stack of coloring pages that come with the Blendy Blasta Activity Kit. There are several pages that have things like pirates, cars, and such, but Ben chose the one with the princess. And put her in a green and black dress. Why? Says Ben: Because you are a princess Mommy and you always wear black and your favorite color is green! Ah! I see! She is totally my kind of princess then! Now notice the little ninja dude ready to whack her in the knees. Why? Says Ben: He's not kicking her, Mommy, he's protecting her from the monsters. Oh! Well that makes sense then!

And now for Nathan's masterpiece:

Slightly disturbing at first glance, huh? There's the beautiful rainbow deer, getting blown up by a hunter, right? Not so says Nathan: That hunter is scared of the giant deer and he should be! Look! The bullets are bouncing right off! See how happy the deer is? Uh, yeah, okay. And what is that little warning sign in the lower right corner? Nathan explains: That is a bear that the people are running away from. They should know better. There was a big sign there warning them to stay away! Smart kid! So maybe I should put signs up in the house that say "No hitting your brother!" or "Put your socks in the hamper" if I want to see better results with these things?

Monday, August 25, 2008

Bye Daddy!

Yesterday we saw Daddy off to LAX for a trip to Hong Kong and Macau.
In just three months, twenty days, and nineteen hours it will be all four of us getting on the plane instead of just Michael.

But who's counting?

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Urban Wildlife

Today while working at my computer I heard so much noise in the backyard I had to investigate... I found all sorts of little animals congregating that it felt a bit like stepping into a scene from Snow White. If only I could have sang a merry tune and had them clean my house like the princess in Enchanted does to her New York City apartment!
Here's what I found:

A squirrel!

A Blue Jay, hollering at the squirrel.

A little mouse, rustling in the underbrush.

A rabbit that appeared to be late for something.

And two monkeys!

Of course, once the monkeys arrived all other wildlife disappeared. Except for the rabbit, who pretty much always just sits there and makes me happy.

Walking with Dinosaurs!

Last night we went to see Walking With Dinosaurs - The Live Experience, which was wonderful! Based on the wildly popular BBC documentary of the same name, it plays in large arenas like the Staples Center in LA or the Honda Center in Anaheim, which is where we saw it last night. The spectacle features life-sized (whoa are they BIG!) robotic dinosaurs operated by drivers and puppeteers, and a paleontologist narrator who takes you back in time and tells you about the dinosaurs in a cool, non museum-like way. It was clever how they tried to tell a story to go with these amazing dino-puppets, simple set pieces, and wonderful light effects. The boys were captivated by how lifelike they were - Ben asked if the tallest of the dinosaurs would be able to reach him in his seat and eat him. I said that he might reach us, but that he was a vegetarian so we were safe.

Twilight Zone Tower of Terror

When I was about five my dad would make my brother and I mac n' cheese with hot dogs for lunch and then we'd all sit down and watch episodes of the Twilight Zone while my mom was at work. I still have nightmares from some of the episodes (I get goose bumps whenever I hear someone say "room for one more, honey") but over all it's a cherished childhood memory of time with my Dad. Years ago the MGM Studios (now the Hollywood Studios) in Walt Disney World, Florida opened an attraction called the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror. The back story is that a wealthy family was riding the elevator in 1939 when it was struck by lightening, forever sending them to the twilight zone. On the attraction you get to board an elevator that does a few rapid free-falls when it too is struck by lightening. Those clever Disney mice go all out when they want to!

Michael and I rode it on our honeymoon in Florida in 1996 and declared it to be completely worth the hours-long wait. We were completely delighted when Disney decided to put the same attraction in at Disney's California Adventure which opened in 2001. However, we weren't quite as delighted when we actually rode it here... it lacks some of the amazing effects and technology that Florida got totally right. But it certainly does the trick... which is to say that your stomach ends up floating somewhere above your head when you rapidly plummet 150 feet! Nathan, being an exceptionally tall child for his age, was tall enough to ride it when he was three years old. However, considering we were about to move to Hong Kong where we would live in a 26 floor building where the elevator is the only reasonable access to one's apartment, it didn't seem wise to give Nathan an unnecessary phobia! But this time around I figured that the kids were both older and wiser and convinced them it would be loads of fun, similar to when Daddy tosses them up into the air and catches them.

Naughty Mommy! Good thing we have about four months before we move back into a high rise building in Macau... There were lots of tears when the ride was over, but later on in the evening Nathan thanked me for taking him on it and has now begun a new obsession... with the Twilight Zone! Trying to explain black and white television to a child who has never known a world without the Internet and DVDs is not an easy task! But I'm happy to share with him a passion for a program that is well written and still entertains (and scares!) four decades after it went off the air.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Disney's Grand Californian Hotel

Checking in

On Sunday we got to stay at the newest of the three Disney hotels in California, Disney's Grand Californian Hotel. It opened right when we moved to Japan in 2001, so this was our first chance to walk through it and actually stay there!

Grand Californian's Grand Lobby

It was amazing! Our room had a queen bed and bunk beds for the boys, plus a view of the fireworks over Disneyland. I loved it, and so did the boys.

Fireworks from our hotel room balcony

Bunk beds in the hotel room. Ben is really asleep, he passed out right before the fireworks while Daddy read Star Wars to them. Nathan is faking it.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Holy Guacamole!

We've always realized that we have some quirky family traditions that we love. For example, we never, ever go to a fancy dining establishment on Valentine's Day. For the fifteen years I've known Michael, we have always happily gone for fish n' chips. Why? It's the one place that is EMPTY come February 14th! And it lacks all pretense... you can't be all lovey-dovey or try to look sexy with grease running down your wrists and vinegar breath. Plus, no one gives our kids dirty looks on a night when all other people book a babysitter. It's also true that this last year was the first that we've ever had Christmas stockings. Considering we don't really do Santa, it didn't seem all that important. But we always (and I mean always!) go out for ice cream when it rains (again, who would think to get ice cream when it's cold and wet outside?). But our favorite tradition generally takes place whenever we've had either a particularly terrible day, or a spectacularly brilliant one. It never happens on just a random Thursday. Anyone can call it, and both kids have had days when they were just miserable and unhappy and looked up through tears and said "I think tonight's the night". And it pretty much goes without saying that anytime Michael has been traveling out of town, we joyfully partake in this tradition the night of his return.

The tradition is going out for made-right-at-your-table guacamole.
The kids don't even know the name of the restaurant, they just know it as Guacamole. You would probably know it as El Torito, which is a chain of Mexican restaurants throughout California, Arizona, and a lone location in Oregon. There is a location in Japan as well, and we made the 90 minute, four train change journey quite a few times the year we lived there. The food at El Torito is nothing spectacular (and yes, I have had spectacular Mexican food), but the guacamole is another story. They make it right there in front of you, exactly how you like it. Both the boys ate guacamole from the time they were in the womb (with Nathan it was literally all I could keep down during the entire miserable nine months of morning-noon-and-night sickness), and both were exposed to the wonder of the avocado as one of their first solid foods. We all L-O-V-E love-love-love it!

But even possibly more than the guacamole at our local El Torito, we love our waiter, Ernie. We only go on nights when he is working (he works days on Sunday and is off on Monday and Tuesday) and we've been known to wait up to forty minutes for a seat in his area when there were available seats elsewhere with other servers. Here is why we love him so: we walk through the door and he spies us and immediately sets up a table with two milks, one Coke, one iced tea, chips and salsa, and he's got all the fixings to begin preparation on our guacamole. He knows what we order, which rarely varies, and he brings free refills of milk for the boys (instead of charging for each one) and extra-large scoops of ice cream at the end of the meal because he knows we always steal bites from the kids. He has a son a year older than Nathan, and he is happily married. We give him an outrageous tip every Christmas (and a generous one the rest of the time). He is worth his weight in avocado, that is for sure.

But now we are faced with a problem!

Today Mike returned from a day of meetings in Las Vegas which wrapped up earlier than expected which meant he caught an earlier flight home in time for dinner, which means (you guessed it)... celebratory guacamole! We walked through the door of El Torito, and were immediately greeted by the cheerful manager who is accustomed to us praising her employee at each visit. She then told us that Ernie has had an operation on his foot and he will be out of commission for SIX WEEKS. We all took a moment of silence and let this sorrowful news sink in. I asked if we can give her a get well card that can be delivered to him and she assures us that it will. Then she tries to give us to another server, who immediately sees us and asks if we've heard the news about Ernie... I don't know if we should be embarrassed or tickled pink with pleasure that we are known so well. We have been going there cumulatively for just shy of four years, with a break in the middle when we lived in Hong Kong (where there is, indeed, a single spectacular Mexican restaurant that happens to be right in the middle of the red light district and not at all family friendly).

What will we do in Macau? Good thing we are big fans of Portuguese food, for which Macau is rightly known. But nothing can hold our hearts the way a California avocado can. The next six weeks will be sad and lonely. We'll have to come up with a new tradition for what to do when we have the No Ernie, No Guacamole Blues. Any ideas?

Here's to the happy couple!


The entire family, last Easter: L to R - Nathan, Michael, Ben, Heather, Tommy, Alyssa, Chris.

This year we got an extra family member in the form of Chris, who came to us in a long and complicated manner. We knew he would only be with us for about a year as it was his intention to join the Navy. Nathan and Benjamin took to him immediately and they both enjoyed having this cool older brother of sorts who had his own computer and could play video games (which they are not allowed to do yet). And we learned a lot and tried to keep the delicate balance between trying not to "parent" a young man who was already grown up, but at the same time giving him the guidance, support, and unconditional love that he had not received elsewhere. Along with Chris, we also got his girlfriend Alyssa who spent every moment she was not working or sleeping at our house (which was fun having to think about things like curfews...). And then just to add to the volume level at the dinner table, we also had Chris's younger brother Tommy here more often than not. I fully grasped what the phrase Home Economics meant and why there are entire classes devoted to it when I saw our grocery bill triple the first month Chris was here. Not to mention the water, gas, and electric bill that hit totals I've never seen before thanks to the extra laundry, heating, and showering going on around here. Which are all good things!

It was a sad day when he finally left for eight weeks of boot camp. He's now in South Carolina where he's going through his specialized training program in Nuclear Engineering. During his boot camp graduation weekend, Alyssa flew out to see him and Chris bought a sparkly diamond ring and popped the question. Anxious not to have to spend time apart, they decided to apply for their marriage licence and get hitched sooner than later. So we've spent the last week booking flights and hotel for Alyssa and throwing together a bridal shower before sending her on her way.

And now to expedite their application to get Navy Base housing, they are tying the knot TODAY, all alone. It is bittersweet for us, because Michael is travelling and we can't be there. They'll come back in December to have the big ceremony and reception, but by then we'll be living in Macau. Overall we are so happy for them... we love Alyssa and we are excited that she is joining our family.

But we are sad, too, because we remember how much it meant to have our loved ones around us the day Michael and I vowed to stay together for life, and we are sad that they won't have that as they start their married life. And it's tough too because as a parent you just want every good thing for your kids... even the already grown up ones that join you later in life. But this is a lesson I am learning with my littlest ones... what might be a perfectly good thing for you, isn't necessarily what is best for them. And it is really important not to confuse the two.

Parenting. It is not for wimps.

Wedding photos to come later...

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Obligatory Castle Shot

We had a BLAST staying at Disney's Grand Californian Hotel and then visiting Disneyland and Disney's California Adventure. The last time we were there Michael still worked for the Mouse, Nathan was four, and Ben was two. Knowing that the next time we visited the Park we would have to shell out hard earned cash to gain entry, we vowed to wait until Ben was tall enough to enjoy more than just the Fantasyland attractions and the Jungle Cruise. This time around Nathan is 54 inches tall and able to ride each and every Disney ride that has a height restriction. Benjamin is 44 inches and can ride all the rides except the ones that he shouldn't based on his heart condition and all.

Let me just tell you right now that I do NOT miss having a baby! For all those moms who say but wouldn't you just love to have another little one (if you could)? I can say with all certainty, no thank you! This was an amazing trip because we got to experience everything with our kids, together as a family, and we didn't have to use the "child switch" option (crazy name, huh?) where one parent waits with the toddler while the other rides alone, and then they switch so the other parent can ride alone while the first one waits with the ever increasingly cranky toddler who is tired of hanging out in the Indiana Jones caverns and wants to get more of that Carousel action.

We took an embarrassingly large amount of photos so check back in the next couple of days for some of the fun ones...

Monday, August 18, 2008

Magic Kingdom, here we come!

The reaction after handing the boys their tickets to Disneyland and explaining that this is what the toys they sold at the garage sale earned them...

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Dodger Blue

A few months ago we scored exceptionally cheap tickets to a Dodger game. I grew up going to Dodger games, using the season tickets my grandparents had subscribed to right behind home plate. We'd go super early and chat with the players like Steve Garvey and Pedro Guerrero while they warmed up. Since we currently live in Los Angeles, it seemed like we should introduce our boys to baseball at the same place where we made many fun memories. We purchased enough tickets to bring Chris and his girlfriend Alyssa, as well as his brother Tommy. The day of the big game arrived and I had a terrible fever, a sore throat, and pain pretty much every where. I sent the group along without me, extracting a promise that they would take photos.

The boys loved how anything you might desire eventually comes right to you, like popcorn, big foam fingers, and ice cream. The tickets were cheap but the Dodger Dogs and all the other stuff were not! Our family made a hasty departure after the seventh inning stretch and the boys came home sleepy and sticky from cotton candy.

Cowgirl Heather

I spent every night this last week wearing cowboy boots, a denim vest and a sparkly cowgirl hat, all for the sake of a hundred screaming fans in the form of 5 to 12-year-olds who took part in our annual VBS, Cactus Canyon. The last time I performed in a serious role on stage was as Tzeitel in Fiddler on the Roof in about 1993 (coincidentally this was the last show Michael performed in as well, although with a different theater company). Once I discovered that I could stage manage, direct, or write plays and musicals, the thrill of performing in one kinda wore off! But every year I'm happy to get up and make a fool of myself (along with a handful of suckers- I mean volunteers!). I especially loved it when the crowd would say, "Howdy Cowgirl Heather!", and I'd hear little Ben say, "Hey! Cowgirl Heather is my MOMMY! Hi Mommy!" at the top of his little lungs.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Thunder Showers

It's raining,
it's pouring,
my two boys are snoring!

All day it's been grey and cloudy and humid. I've commented more than once that it reminded me of Hong Kong and that it looked (and felt) like rain. Glad to know that it happened! Mike and I are enjoying the thunder and lightning even if the boys are snoozing right through it.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Unwelcome guest

Where oh where are all my men when I need them? The boys are at camp and Mike is at a meeting and I'm home cleaning and discovered I was not alone in our house!

High on the wall in the living room I found a big hairy spider. Normally I get one of my manly men to take care of it, but alas, I was the sole human around. This guy was BIG! And it really freaked me out! And I'm not that easily freaked out, having lived in an area with lots of scorpions that hide out from the heat in your shoes, massive amounts of tarantulas that we used to pick up and play with because they tickle the palm of your hand, and the occasional rattle snake found in the garage when trying to do laundry.

I put two extensions on the vacuum cleaner wand and sucked that sucker off the wall. When it hit the part of the hose I was holding, there was a loud THUNK, followed by a scream (mine, not the spider's).

Our vacuum is a bagless model, and after I turned it off thought I heard some clicking or rustling from inside, so it's now sitting outside on the back porch waiting for Michael to come home and empty it. If it tries to escape, I don't want it back in the house. I think just to be safe I'll close the sliding glass door...

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Little stinkers

In the car we were listening to a selection of Disney songs on the iPod. The boys were moaning and groaning with each song, "This is a GIRL song!"

Even when a song clearly sung by a man came on, there was still this whining. Finally Hakuna Matata from The Lion King came on and before they could complain, I said, "You boys better like this one, it's all about passing gas!"

A chorus of "Yippee! Hooray! I like this one! It's my favorite!" came bubbling up from the back seat.

Oh the life of a mom with boys... just never ending joy!

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Take a bow

Today was "parent's day" at the summer day camp where the boys have been going the last two weeks. We were served breakfast and then we were treated to a little performance by the children. If my children were to end up working in the entertainment industry one day, I can guarantee neither will be performers. Ben is the most tech savvy five year old you will meet, and he's well on his way to mastering the sound board at church and is fascinated by the light board, so he would be a tech like his Dad. Nathan has a vivid and unrivaled imagination with a creative streak that mirrors his Mama's. Just don't ask him to tell you a story... it will be full of umms and ahhs and he'll never get to the point. But if you have him write it down (his current medium is in comic book form) you'll be amazed at the intricacies of his stories and the depth of character (currently the topic generally has to do with gastrointestinal issues, but he is a seven year old boy so what do you expect?). So Nathan would grow up to write or to be a story board artist or even an animator- likely in the strain of Tim Burton.

I'm just happy to see my kids on stage performing at all. There are so few opportunities for kids to do that these days unless you pay a ton of cash to get your kids in the local children's theater performance group.

Here's Ben, who went first (my kids are the only blondes in the photos):
He had the hand movements down with military precision and never even cracked a smile. It was serious business to him! He could have taught everyone else to do it.

Then there was Nathan:

First of all, he towers above the other second graders. Parents in the rows behind us began to murmur about his height as soon as he took the stage. He's always been tall for his age starting the moment of birth, but I think now he's really aware of it and has taken to slouching whenever he can. Nathan never smiled once and looked like he wanted to be anywhere but there... but he did fully participate in "singing" the song in sign language.

Funny kids. I always tear up 100% of the time when they are on stage doing anything. Surely I'm not the only parent who does this, but I've not met anyone else who shares my reaction. I guess it just makes me incredibly happy. And like I said earlier, they won't be growing up to be performers, so I gotta take it when I can get it!

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Playing House

Some kids get to play fort under a table and a blanket. My kids have the benefit of being born into a show biz family so they get to play fort on stage! Here's the first two walls of our "house" for my latest show and the incredibly ugly (and oh so perfect for this particular production) couch my stage manager found on the sidewalk by Torrance High School. Hooray for free props! We have a long way to go before it's done, but we made a good start and the boys helped by vacuuming and sweeping all the sawdust. They actually fought over who got to sweep first. Shocking!

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Camp Craftiness

Every day this week the boys have returned home from Summer Day Camp with a new and exciting craft. Monday it was globes-on-a-stick, Tuesday it was race car sun catchers, today it was pots with bendy-straw foam flowers. But what, you ask, is holding those straws in the pot? I'll tell you... it's modeling clay. The boys didn't even say hi to us when we picked them up, they just asked in unison if they could dismantle the lovely flower pot craft so they could get to the clay and build something. Of course I said yes, but forced them into a photograph before the destruction of flowers began.

Fly me to the moon

Hickory Park is on the flip side of our block, and it's the same park where Michael and his siblings used to play as children. It's kinda neat that my kids get to play at the same place Daddy did when he was their age. Of course, the rocket ship was a lot "bigger" when Mike was a boy... although to this mom, it's big enough when it's my boys up at the top making it sway ever so slightly back and forth...

Oh the drama!

I actually have another family at times... it changes seasonally based on whatever show I'm working on. This is my current second family, the cast and two assistants of my Drama @ The Bay group. Our rehearsal space is about 108 degrees so we look very glamorous with our shiny, sweaty faces!

Front row l to r: Shayne, Emily, Riley, Daniel, Darla. Back row l to r: Marian, Ron, Cassi, Eric, Zach, and me.

For this show I am relishing my role as producer. It's a big hat as we are presenting it as a dinner theater so there are more than the usual loose ends to keep track of, plus a bigger budget than ever before. We have four show dates at the end of September, which is getting closer and closer! But honestly it's a blast and I love how you can work intimately with a group of people for a few months and then a few months later it's a whole different group. My kids love it because some of the cast members have kids their age and they get to hang out and play together.

Monday, August 4, 2008

3-D Vision

I picked up a "Make your own 3-D drawings!" kit from Urban Outfitters (home of extremely cool and somewhat cheap odds and ends meant to spark conversation in college dorm rooms or the office). Hours of fun!

Predicting the not-so-distant future...

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