Saturday, November 29, 2008

Thanksgiving Memory

In late 2002, we found ourselves unexpectedly expecting a new baby. It took both Michael and I by complete surprise, and while we came to grips over how it had happened (besides the obvious way, duh), we decided to wait until Thanksgiving to share the big news with the family.

The big day came, and we found out that one of my cousins, Whitney, had just delivered a baby boy the day before. We poured over the photos and how cute the little guy was. As we began our meal, Michael cleared his throat and said he'd like to have us go around the table and have everyone say something they were thankful for. We went all the way around and came back to Michael, who said, "I'm thankful for the little baby". Everyone nodded their heads and agreed that it was nice that Whitney had given birth right before Thanksgiving. And then Mike added, "In Heather's tummy". As you can imagine, the whole family went crazy.

My Dad, as expected, teared up. My Marine Corps brother decided that he shouldn't have been thankful for what he'd said (to personally take out the enemy in Iraq) in light of the happy news. Nathan, who had just turned two, delighted in the cacophony of noise and added to it at the top of his lungs. My mom was the funniest though. She jumped up from her seat at the table and ran to the couch where she grabbed the TV remote. She was shouting happy things like "Wow!" and "Great news!", all the while punching numbers into the remote, randomly flipping channels up and down on the television. Then she slammed it against her hand and shouted, "Why won't this thing work?" We asked her what she was trying to do... and she said she wanted to call her friends and proclaim the happy news. When we pointed out that she was holding the remote, not the phone, she was completely confused. It was priceless, and still makes me giggle.

I am, as always, so thankful for my wonderful family, a never-ending source of mirth!

Friday, November 28, 2008

Oh My! Apple Pie!

I don't have any memories of doing things like baking cookies or making pies with my Mom while I was growing up. We did lots of other things, but cooking together was not on the list. Which means that I don't really do those kind of things with my kids. Some women find lots of satisfaction from feeding their families and enjoy spending hours in the kitchen. I am not one of those women by any means. However, there are a couple of things that I do very, very well. One of them is making a delicious crumbly-top apple pie.

This time of year is the perfect time to break out our apple corer/peeler/slicer. Sadly, my trusty machine gave up the ghost last year, after 15 years of reducing apples into corkscrews. I ran over to Cost Plus World Market and picked up a new one, and after demonstrating to the boys how it works, they were hooked!

They peeled, cored, and sliced over two dozen apples, and then begged me to go to the store to buy more!
It works by just cranking a handle around, which peels the apple and then pushes it through a round hole.


As it turns, it's being sliced into what looks like a Slinky. The boys called it a "Sprinky".

We cut up enough apples for two pies. They came out looking a little different, but they taste delicious!

Especially when served warm with a huge helping of vanilla ice cream!

Happy Thanksgiving!

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Storm Watch 2008

One of the crazy things about living in Los Angeles is that the tiniest bit of rain sets the news media off on a frenzy. The rain gets it's own theme song and animated graphics and a name like "Storm Watch 2008" or "Weather Tracker 911" while a serious news anchor tosses it off to some woman on the street dressed to the nines in trendy rain apparel showing that yes indeed, there is some precipitation happening in the desert of L.A. I don't know why I find this so amusing, but I can't help laughing out loud at the very serious news reports surrounding our "weather events". It doesn't happen all that often, so I guess they have to make the most of it, right?


No school today, so the boys colored and cut and taped and created elaborate Transformer action figures out of copy paper while I made apple pies, pumpkin bread, a Jello concoction, and cooked a fancy Moroccan Pork dinner (because tomorrow it's all about the turkey!). At one point, Benjamin realized that it was raining and ran to put on his boots and grab his umbrella and begged to go outside. He was so cute, I couldn't say no! He wandered around, listening to the sound of the rain on his umbrella and the sound his boots made in the soggy grass. When the rain finally slowed, and then stopped completely, Ben decided to come back in. I was surprised and tried to encourage him to stay outside now that it was sunny and bright. No thanks, he said, it isn't fun unless it's raining. Aha. Ben is the only one in our little family that isn't a native Southern Californian... he was born in the San Francisco Bay area, which is cold and rainy and nothing like the temperate climate we currently enjoy. Unlike the rest of us, he doesn't mind being chilly. Silly boy.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

And so the fun begins!

Send your own ElfYourself eCards

Cookie Turkey

Here's is Nathan's Turkey Cookie before he gobbled it up:

The boys are so excited to have FIVE days off from school! I'm less excited, but only because there is rain in the forecast... which means no bike rides or playing at the park. It would appear that Fall has finally arrived here in Los Angeles!

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Fat Turkey


Today was the annual Thanksgiving assembly where all the Kinder classes sing a selection of songs and recite some poetry. Benjamin has been rehearsing one song in particular which is sung to the tune of "The more we get together". It basically goes: Gobble, gobble, gobble, gobble, Fat Turkey, Fat Turkey... and then the rest is garbled. Around campus I've heard the older classes making up their own lyrics to the little ditty.

There are seven Kindergarten classes this year. Two dressed as Pilgrims, two as turkeys, and three as Native Americans. Ben's class had the most ornate costumes, with real feathers in their headbands and hand dyed macaroni beads. Benjamin is a star performer, singing loudly and doing all the hand motions with military precision. I think the most amazing part of the assembly was the incredible respect that all the other students showed to the performing Kindergartners!

After the assembly, Ben's class had a mini "feast" where they enjoyed cornbread, cranberry sauce, popcorn, and hand churned butter (which was primarily churned by yours truly). When I picked Ben up from school he had a big, happy smile on his face, and he told me he'd had a great day. I asked him to tell me his most favorite thing for the day. When they let me use the knife to spread the butter!, he practically sang. Go figure. Maybe we'll let him carve that Fat Turkey on Thursday!

Monday, November 24, 2008

Brick Art

Nathan received this incredibly cool Lego set for his birthday, the Tower Raid Castle. We told him he could open it up and play with it on Saturday morning. Nathan said that he was going to have a hard time putting together the castle part, and would need help with it.

The castle has a single moving part, just the door at the bottom. While he waited for Mike to help him with it, he put together the Troll tower cart, which has a multitude of moving parts like a battering ram and a gang plank that pulls out, and a very complicated set of instructions.

How I wish I could see it from Nathan's perspective... that the simple one in my eyes would be so much more difficult than the multi-step project where the success of one moving part depends on the preceding five steps being done accurately.

He's a smart kid though... I suspect that he really thought that the simple one was "boring" and wanted to do the cool one by himself and leave the grunt work to his minions.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Up on the rooftop


This morning was the day for Mike and I to sleep in and for the boys to watch a brand new DVD that Nathan received for his birthday. They've been on restriction from TV and movies this week, so we figured that the new movie would keep them quiet while we got a little extra sleep. However, come 8:00 AM, I was wide awake. I was hoping to stay asleep a little longer! I came out to the living room where the boys were both quietly playing with Lego (every Mom's dream: two kids, playing nicely together!). We had planned to put up Christmas lights on the house today, so I thought I'd get the kids in the mood with a viewing of The Polar Express while Daddy slept awhile longer. Later in the day, all three of my guys climbed up on the roof to attach the lights, which was more than I could handle watching! In a college lighting class, I suddenly developed a completely irrational fear of heights that I'd never had before. Unfortunately, it hasn't left! Seeing my babies up there made me flee the scene... I ran to the grocery store to stock up for the week and came home to our house beautifully lit!
We finished the evening with the first viewing of Elf for this year, a movie that my boys love (especially the prolonged belch that Buddy the Elf lets out after chugging an entire 2-liter bottle of Coke!). The house isn't completely done, but my personal lighting design team made great progress. And no, we are not the first house on the block with Christmas lights up... there were two houses who had theirs up on November 1st! By the time Christmas rolls around I suspect we'll all be sick of it, but for today, it's jolly good fun!

Friday, November 21, 2008

Doodles

Nat did this from memory. I had to pull up an image of a Battle Droid to appreciate what a great job he did. This is the kid who refused to color or draw in Kindergarten or preschool, so I'm glad he's making up for lost time!

Did they bug our car?



I'm certain these words have come out of my mouth at some point...

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Madrona Marsh

Today two of the 2nd grade classes went on a walking field trip to the Madrona Marsh Preserve. Part of the experience was sitting in the Nature Center and learning about the various birds and wildlife that call the Marsh their home, and then the rest was actually getting to wander around the Marsh itself.

Personally, I have the tendency to mock the Madrona Marsh because it looks like a large plot of overgrown weeds that people are very serious about protecting. Most of the plants growing there you would pluck out of your garden should you see them sprouting! Mike's parents have an enormous backyard, which greatly resembles the Marsh, and we've joked several times that we should sell tickets to wander through the shoulder high weeds. Needless to say, this was not really a field trip I was looking forward to with great anticipation. But Nathan noted that I'm spending a lot of time working in Ben's class and not so much time in his this year, so a sense of guilt propelled me to volunteer my day to walk over with the kids. Unfortunately I've been a little under the weather and have completely lost my voice, so I was pretty ineffectual as a chaperone! Being among all the tall grasses and seed pods did nothing for my already ash and smoke-battered sinuses!

The kids were very interested in the "stuffed" animals, and kept asking our guide about what exactly the taxidermy process entails. And here is our last photo of Nathan's blue metal water bottle, which he lost somewhere on the Marsh.


This Gopher Snake is about three years old, and everyone got the chance to touch him, even me!



Here's the outside of the Nature Center, with a sample of the brown brush that covers the Marsh. I felt bad for our guide who had to keep all the kids interested in the reproduction cycle of the Tule Reed, when today was the first time in five days they've been allowed to go outside and play!

The coolest part for the kids (NOT the adults) was the walk back to the entrance when we got to go through what felt like a never-ending tunnel of the Tule. We got home from the field trip in time for me to load up on antihistamines before picking up Ben from Kindergarten.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

GR8!

What a fun birthday! Nathan said his classmates sang him Happy Birthday at school and he got to pick a treat from the prize box. For dinner we went to the restaurant of his choice, Macaroni Grill, because "you are allowed to color on the table there".
Goodness Gracious Grandma and Grandpa and Auntie Holly joined us, too. Auntie Holly brought balloons for both boys, which provided hours of fun for them (not so much for us!). Then back to the house for a giant cupcake cake that our friend Miss Amy made especially for Nathan!
And don't forget the presents!
Nathan says that being eight "feels great"! What else feels great to Nathan? Gaining on Grandma in the height department!

Nate the Great is Eight!

Today my baby turns eight years old! I believe that Nathan's personality was evident from the moment he was conceived. I had miserable morning sickness for all nine months, loosing 25 pounds throughout my pregnancy and having weekly "dates" with the E.R. nurse who would hook me up to an I.V. to get me hydrated. From the moment I first felt him move, he never stopped moving, leaving me awake at night with his rhythmic pounding on my ribcage or bladder. We had an appointment to be induced on November 16, 2000, a week after he was due. After forty hours of completely unproductive but extremely painful back labor that included vomiting and a string of swearing with every contraction, they decided to take him via C-section. Twenty minutes later, our firstborn son made his debut. To this day, Nathan is still a bundle of energy who is never fully still even in deep sleep, and he is always at one extreme or the other, never simply "average". He constantly makes his presence known, is never content to just be a spectator. He can be draining and tiring, but he is also the spice of our life which keeps things from getting dull or predictable. We love him passionately and are so happy and blessed to have him in our family!

Happy birthday Nathan!
"BIRTH" DAY

1st Birthday, 2001

2nd Birthday, 2002


3rd Birthday, 2003


4th Birthday, 2004


5th Birthday, 2005



6th Birthday, 2006



7th Birthday, 2007

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Mr. Blue Sky

I have the song by ELO running through my head ever since I walked outside to see a beautiful sight:


No, not the moon, the lovely lack of orange in the sky! The kids are on a modified recess schedule, the school district has a strict scale of what is acceptable air quality for the kiddies to be out on the playground running about, and even this blue sky isn't cutting it. I feel for the poor teachers who will have kids who spent an entire weekend cooped up only to go back to school and have to stay indoors there, too!

We lost power last night around 11:30 PM which prompted the lighting of candles, which then prompted a small fear of our house catching fire... I burn candles nearly all the time, it has an amazing calming effect on the boys (and me) but suddenly I had fear that one would somehow ignite something, leaving us to flee into the night. We blew them out before retiring to bed, but I couldn't fall asleep despite feeling under the weather and completely sleep deprived. While Mike happily snored away, I played a little game in my head, imagining I had 30 minute to grab everything of importance before having to evacuate. Then only 20 minutes, or 5 minutes. It was a very morbid game, which made it very hard to fall asleep. It made me feel compassion anew for our son Nathan, who tends to have bizzare and irational fears and lets his imagination run to the worst possible scenarios, further feeding those fears. Not helping was the fact that earlier in the day we had stocked the fridge with a lot of perishables and my fear of all those groceries spoiling with no electricity to keep them chilled plus the potential loss of the money they represent gave me a small sense of panic. Around 1:30 AM the power came back on, our bedroom air purifier kicked on with it's comforting white noise and I finally fell into oblivion. I think today calls for a little nap for Mommy, and a lot of prayer for the people who woke up today and have to figure out how to put their lives back together.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Smokin'

We are surrounded by fire, which has personally affected a number of our friends in Orange County. Times are tough for us right now, but watching the news last night made me weep openly. They showed charred remnants of homes burned to the ground, and interviewed families who were still in their houses, not realizing their roof was on fire, who only had time to grab the kids and run... no wedding photos, no computer hard drives, no mementos of a lifetime of memories or even a change of clothes.

We live close to the ocean and normally enjoy a cool breeze coming in off the water. Right now, the Santa Ana winds are blowing, meaning the air is not blowing in off the ocean, it's coming in from the dry desert, sweeping in through where the fires are burning, and then directly towards our house. The ash on our windows, cars, and grass is thick, and though the boys sweetly suggested it was snow, we corrected them and said that all those pieces of fluffy whiteness are actually someone's house, someone's toys, someone's earthly possessions. Sobering news indeed.


Ash in the driveway.


We are all wheezing and coughing and our eyes are burning which is miserable, but surely not as miserable as a friend of ours one mile from the fire's edge. We drove to Pasadena this morning, which was relatively clear and gave us a good perspective of the orangey-brown haze enveloping Los Angeles. Later we drove to San Pedro to the water's edge where the air was far easier to breath. Tonight we are simply thankful for all that we have, most importantly for each other.
From Pasadena, looking back toward Los Angeles.




Not smog or marine layer... smoke.


Heading toward Pasadena, driving through downtown Los Angeles.


Through the thickest part of the smoke the air was orange.

The Sun through the haze.


Leaving the relatively clear air of San Pedro, driving back to our home in all that smoke.

Mr. Grumpy


Sunday, November 16, 2008

Wedding Bells

Today our friend Sherry married a boy she dated in high school and then lost touch with for about ten years, only to meet up with him again last year. The day she reconnected with him, she called to say she was coming over so we could meet the man she was going to marry. We were shocked to say the least, as she has never so much as dated anyone in the five years we have known her! She asked me to be a bridesmaid, a role I did not especially relish as it meant donning a dreaded bridesmaid dress. We bought our dresses at the beginning of summer, and through an extremely stressful month of October I ate enough starchy comfort foods that the dress no longer fit when I tried it on two weeks before the wedding! Uh-oh! So I went on a strict regimen of very low carbs, lots of water, a morning and evening session of Pilates each day, and a daily walk or jog of two to five miles. I'm happy to report that the dress fit just fine with room to spare.
The boys were reluctant wedding guests. I imagine it's hard to sit still and watch a bunch of people on stage who are doing nothing other than standing there in pretty clothes, wiping away tears. Kudos to my husband who had to do all the parental duties while I was off doing bridesmaid duties!
After the ceremony we walked outside to find falling ash from the many fires that are burning around the Los Angeles area. The sun was a fiery orange color, hazy through the layers of smoke. The nearest fire, just a few miles away in Palos Verdes, was quickly contained, but our friends in Orange County are not so lucky (incidentally where the Bride and Groom are spending their first night as Mr. and Mrs.) with the loss of many houses.

I caught a ride with another bridesmaid to the reception. We were taking the groom's car, and neither of us had ever seen the car. We knew it was a blue Ford SUV. Behind the church we found a blue Ford SUV which was unlocked. Thinking that this was the correct car, we began to load it with the garment bags, changes of clothes, and all sorts of other wedding related stuff. We noticed that the car was full of framed art and a huge stack of dry cleaning. We thought it was a little bit odd for the groom to have these items in his car considering it's his honeymoon night and all, but neither of us know him, so we just shrugged and started rearranging everything to make room for the wedding stuff. We got in the car, put on our seat belts and then tried to start it up... but the key wouldn't turn. We tried all the keys on the ring and none of them budged even a little bit. We jumped out of the SUV and walked around the church, only to find another blue Ford SUV that made that pleasant "beep" sound when we pressed the key fob! So we had to go back, unload the first SUV and try to put all the art and dry cleaning back in the way we found it and then load up the correct car. By this time, the entire bridal party had been at the reception location, waiting for us to arrive for about twenty minutes. I called the bride and said "car troubles" slowed us down and that we'd be there in a few. Poor hungry guests! For once it wasn't the photographer making everyone wait...

After the reception, we came home, changed clothes, and then took the boys to see Madagascar 2, thinking it would be cool and air conditioned instead of muggy and smokey like our house. I love Los Angeles, where it's 90 degrees in November! Hopefully tomorrow will bring cooler weather and the winds will die down so the fires can be put out. And as for our friend Sherry and her new husband Matthew, may the flames of their love continue to burn for a long, long time!