Sunday, August 31, 2008

Think Cosmically, Act Locally

So I saw this idea somewhere and stole it. I gave A. three yogurt containers and had him label one "spend," one "give," and one "save." The idea, of course, is that he's supposed to get used to dividing the money he earns in those three ways.

He's excited about the idea of choosing his own charity. What he's retained from our explanations about charities is that there are homeless people, there are people who don't have enough to eat, and there are animals that are endangered. He's a little fuzzy on the details, but who isn't?

So he decorated his "give" container with a homeless alien (can't you tell?), and was a little disappointed to find that there are no charities assisting homeless aliens in returning to their planets of origin. His next idea was to save the crabs. I don't know what his fascination with crabs is about, but it's hung on for a long time. I really do want him to choose his own, but....crabs?

He hasn't figured it all out yet, and by the time he does, who knows? Maybe we'll be collecting money to send some creature back to Mars.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Mother Goose Says "Aaargh!"

So the other day the boys and Neighbor Girl were playing pirates. I tied bandanas around Neighbor Girl's head and Ben's head. A. decided to tie his own.

"Hmmm," he mused. "I think I look like something from Mother Goose."

"Mother Goose's Dark Past: Storyteller or Pirate?"

Thursday, August 28, 2008

I Want to Be a Dentist

Once a year, maybe twice if I'm really feeling high-maintenance, I get my hair cut. I go the same place in the mall, without an appointment, 'cause I'm spontaneous like that. The older Russian lady who owns it squints at me and grumbles, "Oh yeah. I remember you. You come in once a year."

Yesterday was the big day, and the lady assigned to me that day (I never learn their names because they've always left by the next year's appointment) talked me into those nice side-swept bangs with a side part. Kinda like this:

I didn't have time for her to blow it out, so I paid and ran out of there with wet hair. Later, I remembered why I hate my hair with a side part and side-swept bangs:

My bangs now look EXACTLY like Hermie's.

Edited to add: A'ight, you asked:

Friday, August 22, 2008

In Which I Begin Losing My Son

So my son has joined a gang.

Let me explain: The parents right around us fall into about two categories: permissive and protective. These two categories happen to fall along cultural lines in our neighborhood, but let's not go there just now. The permissive families don't seem to care much where their kids are. I have met the parents only briefly, barely to wave, would not recognize them outside of our cul-de-sac, yet their children are at my house a lot. Once, a little girl left our house, saying she'd be back in a minute, and sure enough, she returned about 5 minutes later with her 1-year-old brother.

"My mother says I have to bring him," she shrugged, carrying him into our family room. Um. OK. What's his name?

Anyway, the kids that run in and out of my house range in age from about 7 to 10. They're all (except that little brother) older than A. and are often interested and knowledgable about things that he is not.

J., in particular, is over here a lot, and asked me how old I was. "42," I answered. "42!" he exclaimed, "Shouldn't you be a grandmother by now?"

and...."G., are you a Norteno, Soreno or just normal?"

and...."I'm old enough to know about violence and drugs but not sex. That's what my parents say." (He's 8).

Just this week, A. has been inducted into their group. It's a little different for him, because he's only allowed at one house (whose parents I do know) and he's not allowed to run from house to house except for between our two houses. Kind of limits his mobility compared to theirs, but at least I know where he is. For the first time, we've let A. go to someone else's backyard without going with him.

It's weird. I ask him what they talk about, and he says, "Nothing really. BiggerKid just tells me what to do, like to get the blue thing."

He's completely thrilled beyond belief to be included, and it makes me nervous. I like these kids, for the most part, but they could end up having so much influence over him. He says that tomorrow they're planning a party in the backyard for just the boys, and he has to bring our homemade ice cream, and he can't go anywhere with us tomorrow because he doesn't know when the party is and he might miss it. Even activities that would have thrilled him last week, like miniature golfing, are only possible if they don't conflict with his homeboys' plans.

It makes me nervous because I have no control over it (I mean, I do - if I found out they were doing bad things I could stop it, but I don't think they are) and because I'm afraid it's short-lived. How long are 10-year-olds going to let a 6-year-old hang around? How do I explain it when they gather without him and don't include him?

And is the period where he wants more than anything to be with me ending? I don't think I'm ready.

And, oh geez, my little Ben is starting preschool in just over a week. WITHOUT ME.

I understand that someday they both will be tall (a relative term in our family) and old enough to go live in another state without me. That's just not acceptable. Sorry. Right now, I'm totally willing to be the crazy mother who visits her son at college several times a week to do his laundry.

Perhaps I should ratchet myself back a little. They are still only 3 and almost 6. ::::deep breath::::

(Please forgive me if this is a little disjointed. I'm just going to hit publish and hope some of this makes sense. I'm not really having a panic attack but I am unbelievably tired.)

OK, and in other news.....a long time ago, my old laptop had this game on it where it would show a black screen with a bouncing blue ball within 4 walls. You had to draw lines within this box as balls appeared in order to sequester them within their own area, but the balls couldn't bounce off the walls as you drew them, so timing was important. Anyone recognize this game? Know what the name is? I miss it and can't find it because the only part of the name I remember is "..ball."

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Finally Someone Agrees to Meet Me

I got to meet Gwendomama today! How lucky am I? A., Ben and I also met her beautiful sparkly children. Her children made mine look like total amateurs because even Bubbles went happily on the rides while mine acted like we were suggesting they jump off cliffs into shark-infested waters (BTW, anyone need about $40 of Boardwalk ride tickets?).

We did talk them into the merry-go-round, but my boys ignored the horses and determinedly sat on the chariot-style bench - you know the ones they have on there for grandmas who can't climb but still want to ride with their grandkids? Yeah. As soon as we sat down, Ben started looking around and groused, "Why is there no seat belt on this?"

Me: "Because people don't usually fall off these, honey. Really. It's not that dangerous."

At bedtime we revisited the thrill ride and I reminded him, "You ended up being OK on the merry-go-round, weren't you?"

Ben: "I was OK as soon as I got off."

Anyway, the kids frolicked on the beach, too, and found some ditch water with questionable gaseous eruptions to play in, so that was fun and kept them busy while we chatted.

Anyway, Gwendomama and her heirs are just as great as I thought they'd be. There will be reunions, although my kids will probably insist on being pushed in wheelchairs, just in case.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Does UPS Have Dog Sniffers?

So a few days ago UPS delivers a box. Plain, sort of shabby brown box, to Lunasea and Husband LastNameBadlyMangled. It's from Sid and Nancy Vision. I figure G. ordered something off the internet and forget about it until today when I say, "Hey. G. Did you order something off the internet?"

G: "No."

Me: "Hmmm. Well, a box came, and they can't spell our name. From Sid and Nancy Vision? In Iowa?"

G: "Oooh, that's really weird."

Me: "Yeah. Maybe a punk store in Iowa? I don't know. Let's open it and see."

G: "We'd better open it outside. This is really weird. We don't know what it could be. This is really weird."

We open it up and find two typewritten notes inside:

Hmm. I don't know a Nancy. On the second note, my name is spelled correctly, though. That's odd.

So we dig a little further and dig out this, um, fairy with a lantern:

(the photo does not do it justice. It's about 14 inches tall and the glass in the lantern is broken).

We figured then that it couldn't be anyone who knew us because who on earth would be reminded of us as soon as they saw that? Please tell me none of you would be reminded of us when you saw that.

So I figure, whatever, Nancy knew someone named Collen who was heavily into fairies and maybe had lost touch with her, but knew she was married to someone named Greg, hopped on Zaba, found my address and said, "Hey. Close enough," and sent it on out. I did think the name "Sid and Nancy Vision" was a bit too close, of course, to "Sid and Nancy Vicious," but hey, it was obviously from a couple named Sid and Nancy who played on their name and own a small punk-rock, Spencer's-type shop in the local mall called "Sid and Nancy Visions". See? I had it all figured out.

G. was not so trusting. I snapped that picture quickly before he stuffed it back into the styrofoam and got it the hell out of breathing range, saying, "This is really weird. We don't know what it could have in it. Maybe anthrax. Let's get it back in the box." (Have I talked much about G's paranoia? He wanted us to wear masks on the first plane trip we took with A. because he was scared of SARS. I don't want to make fun of him, though, because our emergency kits are better stocked than the National Guard's, so when CA has that big earthquake, I want to be in his good graces. Anyway....)

Inside, he reminds me that he recently turned down a client because of a potential threat of violence from a family member and said, "This is exactly the kind of thing I was worried about!"

"Really? That they would pick out ugly garden ornaments and send them to your home?"

"Well, yeah!"

So there was a phone number on the label, and I copied it down, figuring I'd get some lady named Nancy and would have to tell her that the lovely, lovely gift she'd intended for someone else had arrived at our home and ask her how she'd like us to arrange to have it sent back, as soon as possible, preferably.

I called it, and it went to voice mail. "Hello. This is Prankster BIL, important guy at Wireless Company, yada yada yada." Aaaaaaugh! The worst thing is that we can't send it back now. So we're going to send it to my dad's wife (who is singularly responsible for ruining our latest trip to AZ) and say, "Just thinking of you, Love, BIL." Ha ha ha ha.

Our other plan is to tell him we took it to Antique Roadshow and that it's actually worth a million bucks.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

In Which I Claim the Title of Homemade Queen

I am the Homemade Queen. As I mentioned previously, I'm about half-way through my No-Spend Month Lite. My focus has been to buy as few groceries as possible, digging through the cupboards and the far reaches of the refrigerator to put together meals.

So today I made Taco Salad - ground turkey from our freezer (G don't do red meat); taco seasoning made from what I had with this recipe; tomatoes from our garden; tortilla chips from baked tortillas out of our freezer; homemade 1000 island dressing from this recipe (I like ranch but G loves the ketchup-mayo-relish stuff).

The only thing I bought was lettuce.


He's got the fever....Olympic fever! A. is thrilled with the Olympics, especially because we let him stay up late to watch the games with us. Ben is not thrilled by this...he wails every night, "Why do only 3-year-olds go to bed now? I hate my room. It's stupid. I don't want to sleep. No! Never!" - his latest thing is to shout "No! Never!" when he doesn't want to do something which always cracks me up because it's usually about really mundane things like, "Put on your socks." "No! Never!" But I digress....

I'm surprised at how much A. picks up. "Beach volleyball, running, swimming and men's volleyball tonight! Go USA!" He listens to the announcers and tells me what they said if I missed it. Right now he's got a little notebook with a page dedicated to each sport: "suimeen, beech boleebol, jimnastics, runeen." He keeps score, sort of, on each page as he watches.

Then he asks something stupid like, "Beijing? Where's Beijing? Why do they keep saying Beijing? It's in China?"

Some random and useless thoughts:

So I can't help but wonder about the difference between the uniforms for the women's beach volleyball:

and the men's beach volleyball:

So the chicks are all exposed and we get to see them brush sand off their tight tummies after they dive for the ball, and the guys are all schlubby like this? I mean, fine, no one wants to see them in Speedos and nothing else. Well, I shouldn't speak for everyone, but it would be a little much for me. C'mon guys, the chicks have to get sand all over them. Would it kill you to at least take off your shirts? I understand how it can be a little daunting at first but you'll get used to it. Throw your female viewers a bone here.


It bugged me how, after USA won the 400 free relay, the announcers kept talking about how, rather than pulling out an amazing win over France, mostly, Lezak "kept Michale Phelps' dream alive." I almost expected Phelps to stand on the podium by himself, with the other guys saying, "Oh, no, really, don't mind us. We only did it for Michael."


Enough has been said about NBC delaying things they could show live out here on the West Coast (like the above race). But I remember the Summer Olympics being on ALL DAY when I was a kid. They showed everything - even medal ceremonies that weren't :::gasp::: won by Americans. Go Mongolia!

Well, they might not have shown fencing or archery. Still.


Don't you think they should take pollution into consideration when they choose an host city? Nothing against Beijing, which, it seems has done a great job so far, but it seems to me there's a reason they don't hold the competitions in a smoky bar.


I like Mary Carillo. I liked her even more when I read the wiki on her and found she responded to a question from a reporter about losing a tennis match by saying, "I blame society."

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

The End of an Era

A. has finally agreed to give up the mushroom haircut he's had since his hair was long enough to cut. Whenever I'd suggest trying something new, he refused, saying, "I like my hair this way." Not a big fan of change, that boy.

But I must have timed it just right because this time he actually agreed to look at the little boys hair style book at the hairdresser's, and picked one out. It's not like there are a lot of choices for little boys.



Gah. He's getting older all the time. I guess I can deal with A. growing up, but Benjamin better not try it.

Saturday, August 09, 2008

When Life Gives You 250 Lemons....

I picked over 250 lemons off our lemon tree today. No joke. Some had obviously been on there a while, but they'll still work for juice. And I couldn't even reach a bunch at the very top. I was embarrassed by how many were going bad when there were people who could probably use them right in our neighborhood.

So I loaded them, 15 to a bag, into our stroller, grabbed A. and Ben and headed off into the neighborhood. It was surprisingly hard to give away free bags of lemons.

For one thing, where the hell does everyone go on Saturday afternoon? What do you people have going on that we are missing?

For another, just as we have an overachieving lemon tree in our backyard, so do many of our neighbors.

We did eventually manage to give away all 16 bags. We lucked out when the door was answered by someone who didn't speak English and was confused by A. yelling, "Lemon Delivery! Free Lemons! We picked 300 lemons off our tree!" So we'd just hand them the bag and run. Ha ha! You cannot escape the Lemon People!

Later I asked A., "We? I picked all the lemons by myself, as I recall."

"Oh yeah. Ben and I were inside counting our money."


On Fridays we head out to Art class and Gymnastics. Yesterday I loaded the boys into the car, telling them we were going to Gymnastics which starts at 9:30am.

Halfway there, I started thinking, wait a second. Is Gymnastics first? No wait, Art is first, because I remember running out of there last week to get to Gymnastics on time. But that would make Art class at 9:30 - that doesn't sound right. I thought Art was at 10:30.

Me: "Hey, A? Last week? Did we go to Art or Gymnastics first?"

A: "Ummmmm. I don't remember."

Me: "I think we went to Art first because remember we had to leave Art in a hurry to get to Gymnastics?"

A: "Oh yeah. Yeah, I think Art was first."

Me: "Yeah, I think so too, but I didn't think it was until 10:30, which would make us a whole hour early and that doesn't seem right."

A: "This is very strange."

Me: "Hmmm. Well, I thought for sure Art was at 10:40 and Gymnastics was at 9:30, but now I think I have it backwards. We'll just head to Art first and see what happens."

A: "This is getting stranger and stranger."

Me: "Yeah, well, welcome to my brain."


We were supposed to have our French Doors installed over a month ago, but the header part (the part on top) had a big split in it so we're waiting for a new one.

While watching the Olympics last night, they showed that Home Depot commercial where all the employees who are in the games are featured.

G: Hey, Home Depot! Deliver our doors! That'd be an Olympic feat!
Me: Yeah, that's why our doors aren't here! They're all over in China!

Friday, August 08, 2008

WTG Beijing

Whatever your human rights violations might be, you sure know how to make a cool light-up leotard.

(from Getty Images)

We let A. stay up late to watch the opening ceremonies, and as the athletes from Yemen walked in, A. said, "They look like Americans."

That's what I love about living in such a diverse city.

Thursday, August 07, 2008


Ben finally has a big-boy bed. We'd actually had it in the garage for a while, since it was handed down to us last year. We took down the crib (that has been in the same spot for over 6 years now...sniff) and set the bed up last week. It's a trundle bed and damn, it's heavy.

While setting it up, I realized we have no twin sheets in the house, so I took the boys with me and let Ben pick out his own sheets. A true Disney drone, he picked WALL-E sheets. He loves his new bed.

Too bad he won't sleep in it.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Why I'm Like This

Not to blame everything on my mother, but she's not here to defend herself, so why not? My mother was the Queen of Recreational Shopping. I vaguely remember a time when she also bowled and played bridge, but mostly, she shopped. Our options every weekend were either the shopping center 10 miles north or the mall 10 miles south. It was a rare Saturday that we didn't go shopping. Not in search of anything (usually), but just as something to do. Often, we'd leave the stores with something, but occasionally she wouldn't find anything and would drive back home with the dejected look of a wild game hunter with an empty truck bed.

After she died, my sisters found piles and piles of clothes with the price tags still on them. Did I mention she was a hoarder too? I used to think it was normal to only be able to use the front 2 inches of any shelf in the house because you didn't know what was beyond that 2 inches back there on that shelf, but whatever it was stayed there forever and ever.

It was also common practice in our house, when putting away laundry, to open the linen closet, shove the towels and/or sheets in wherever and close the door really quickly so nothing fell out.

Anyway, as a young adult, I lived in a town where I knew no one, my co-workers were unfriendly and my boyfriend was an hour away and, I was beginning to realize, a jerk. Desperate for human interaction, I'd go to the mall and easily drop $100 just to make myself feel better (this was 20 years ago - $100 went further then). Retail therapy - everyone does it, right? The problem is that the good feeling from having new, cute stuff fades very quickly, and the only way to get the good feeling back is to go buy more. It was probably another 10 years before I started to see a problem with this cycle.

Then I went to grad school where many of us joked about living off our credit cards. Again, everyone does it. "I'll pay it back when I graduate and get a job. This is an investment in my future, darn it." Oh, and by the way, I waitressed almost all through grad school until I could get a job in my field that paid as much as waiting tables. So I did work, but my spending was still out of control. I was never super-extravagant, I was just unconscious and careless with my money. I was also confusing "want" and "need." Needing something because it reinforces the picture you want to have of yourself = not a good financial strategy. I also had a car that I loved but that cost $5G at a time to service and fix. It never occurred to me, "I can't afford this car," because I could always put it on credit.

If, during this time, I ever got up the guts to look at my financial situation, my anxiety would get so great I'd ask my sister if I could stay with her if I became homeless, then just hide everything away again and go back into denial.

So anyway, I'm fascinated by people who just give it all up - the Compact, Church of Stop Shopping, etc. for environmental, personal, spiritual, and political reasons. I think it's awesome. I'm not ready to take on that kind of commitment, but I am ready for a really careful month. My rules for this month are:

1. Account for every penny. I am starting off with $165 in cash (thanks to a client paying a month's worth of co-pays in cash - I don't usually carry that much) and $202.11 in my checking account.

2. Get what I can get at Costco (assuming it's cheaper than store sales, which it sometimes isn't) - get what I can't get at Costco at Food Source or Grocery Outlet - get what I can't get at any of those places at Safeway or at the Farmer's Market if possible. Our grocery bill tends to be high because we buy organic produce and much of our dry goods are also organic.

3. Plan meals each week, and plan shopping lists from meals. Take a list to Costco and ONLY buy what’s on the list (I did this on my last two trips to Costco, and my total purchases ended up being less than $100 which is pretty low for me

4. Avoid Target. If I do go to Target, see above.

5. Use what we have. Take an inventory of our freezer and pantry and use it up rather than buying more.

6. Pack my food for work days.

7. No non-essential purchases. What’s non-essential? I’ll have to figure that out as I go along. In the strictest terms, anything beyond minimal shelter, food and clothing are non-essential. I say that TP and medicine is essential. I also say that coffee is essential, but it doesn’t have to be Peet’s and it doesn’t have to be made somewhere other than home.

A’s birthday is in the beginning of September. Stuff for goody bags and b-day presents are pretty non-essential in the grand scheme of things. But I imagine I’m going to buy them anyway.

As an aside, I suggested to A. that we ask people not to bring b-day presents to his party and instead he could pick a charity for them to donate to, since he already has so much stuff and really doesn’t need more. His eyes filled with tears and his “Noooooo!” echoed through the aisles. Probably shouldn’t have brought it up to him in the toy section of Target.

Because I Love You

The other night I kissed A. goodnight and whispered something I used to say when he was little, “You’re my sweetest little red-head boy.”

About 20 minutes later he came into my room with an empty salt container holding pens and various stick-shaped things. The label had been ripped off.

“There’s more than four dollars in there,” he said. He owed me $4 for a pack of Pokemon cards he'd decided to use his money to buy. I looked in the salt-container-pen-holder and sure enough, there was a bunch of change in the bottom.

“But why? The cards only cost four dollars.”

He looked baffled. “Why? Because I love you.”

I told him that was very sweet and generous, but he really should keep his money because maybe there would be something else he'd want, or he could decide to give it to a charity if he didn't need it.

He came back in a few minutes later with a sign he'd made: "Mama is the best mom."

He's a pain in the ass sometimes, but I love him too.

Monday, August 04, 2008

Involuntary Simplicity

Raising two children in the SF Bay Area on the income of 1.5 social workers, G and I have had to follow a plan of involuntary simplicity for years now. You know how they say there are two kinds of people, spenders vs. savers? I am a full-blooded spender. So, however much I try to make cutting corners into a game, and however much I agree that our culture of consumerism is a trap, frankly, I'm still thrilled when I get a gift card (2 presents in one - whatever you buy + the gift of shopping!).

I think simplicity and frugality are fascinating. Kind of like the customs of South American native tribes are fascinating - it's so different from my natural way of being. I have a list of blogs and websites dedicated to these quaint ideas. I nod wisely, thinking, "Ahhh, these people so unlike ourselves, they have much to teach us, no?" (Does anyone else develop a French accent when speaking of other cultures? Anyone?)

I also really try to look for the silver linings in our situation. There are many:

1. We don't need daycare for the boys. We've staggered our work schedules so that one of us is always with them. We save money this way, neither of us feel like we're missing out on their childhood (hoo boy, do I not feel that way), and, although this may be entirely coincidental, they both seem pretty darn well-adjusted. Much of the time, anyway. Sometimes they're completely psychotic. Anyway, there are a lot of advantages to not having to deal with child care situations.

2. We don't have a lot of debt. We have our house mortgage (thank god we bought in 2000), but our cars are paid for and I can usually pay off credit cards in a month or two, at the most (hello, tickets to Arizona, thanks for sticking around, you can go now).

3. We feel like we have choices about our life, as opposed to letting our lifestyle run us.

I may move all of this to a new blog; I haven't decided yet. But I'm embarking on a month of completely conscious saving. I have a couple of goals. I want at least $3000 in savings that I can use in emergencies so I won't have to use the credit card for emergencies (or plane tickets to AZ). I also want a bit of padding - I'm self-employed, so if I get sick or hurt, I don't get paid.

I also want some new habits. I tend to use shopping as my excuse to get out of the house - I want to think first of the library or the park as our outings, not "do I need anything at the store?" I do make a weekly menu, but I'm also prone to buying on impulse anything that looks good or seems to be a bargain. I think some of these are OK, and some are a waste of money, and I want to be able to determine which is which before I buy.

Tomorrow: Why my mother is to blame for all of this.

Saturday, August 02, 2008

I'm Here! I'm Here!

As Sarah so astutely pointed out, I changed my blog banner back to my old coffee-stained one because I liked it, it was non-controversial and it matched my BlogHer cards (I think I gave out four...wouldn't want to confuse those four people).

I've been waiting to post again to see if I could get up to 15 comments on that last post, but y'all are taking too long. Thanks to those of you who took one for the team and commented twice.

On our trip to Portland, G and I had our anniversary dinner at a great North Portland restaurant called Lovely Hula Hands (You'd think it would be Hawaiian food, but it's not):

It's on N. Mississippi, which G remembers, when he was a kid, as the part of town you stayed out of. It's had a resurgence of activity and new businesses and is now one of the up-and-coming spots to dine and shop, not to mention live.

My favorite sights on the streets were these little cafes made out of trailers. This one was a breakfast spot, and they were holding a puppet show in the back this evening:

I believe this one was also a coffee place:

And here is the neighborhood Filipino restaurant:

I loved that there was enough space left for these trailers to have a large lot and picnic tables and still do business. I wonder if in a few years they will be gone, though - pushed out to make more room for hipster baby and pet stores. (Not that there's anything wrong with hipster babies and pets).

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