Archive for October, 2008

Carving pumpkins

Carving pumpkins with five kids after Dave’s been in China for a week is a monumental task.  It definitely deserves a nomination for the #1 mommy award.

I’m a slacker and a procrastinator extraordinaire.  Of course I didn’t go buy pumpkins until October 30th.  Who would have thought that in the pumpkin capital of the valley we’d have a shortage?  My three older kids were very close to winding up with 2 misshapen, soft, overpriced pumpkins to share amongst each other.  Thank goodness for the greatest mother-in-law ever who helped cart my lazy procrastinator self to every grocery store in town looking for pumpkins.  We finally found the perfect squash at store number 5.

Everyone knows the standard pumpkin carving equipment:  itty bitty dull knives with bright orange handles, lots of very hard stencils that frustrate the kids beyond belief, little tiny scoopers to scoop out lots and lots of slimy pumpkin guts that no one will touch but mom, and the most important piece:

which would be the wine not the animal crackers or indiana jones car or the grout in desperate need of a good scrub.

The wine is important because of this:

and all the crying that insude after this:

but in the end, after just 2 long and slimy hours, a bowl full of pumpkin guts, and a spattering of crying; I wound up with three very proud kids and two worn out babies.

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i’m short

I’m short.  Just an inch or two shorter and I’d be classified as a little person.  Which would probably be better, than when people comment on me being short, I could just get all defensive and say, “I don’t like the term short, I like the term little person”.  Plus, being a true little person, maybe I could get to know the people from that tv show on tlc.

I don’t normally mind being short.  I think for the most part I’m delusional and live my life in denial.  I picture myself as being normal sized.  I don’t notice that the cart at costco comes up to my boobs, or that I can’t reach the second shelf in my upper kitchen cabinets, or that I don’t see my friends eye to eye.

But then there’s every once in while when, I’m standing on the curb and a notice that I’m the same height as a friend on the street.  Or when I stand on the couch, I can see eye to eye with Dave.  Or, someone will ask me to go back to back with my daughter and see who’s taller. And I realize I’m short.

There isn’t much I can do about being short. That’s the way God made me. I’m not going to grow.  Honestly, I’m probably shrinking millimeters every year.  I guess I could wear heels, but i’m lazy.  Plus I’d be the short girls with 4 inch heels who is still short.

I try to see the positive side.  I always notice money on the ground first, because I’m closer to it.  Score!  I can totally crawl into the back of my van and almost stand, which comes in handy while buckling the babies in the car.  Another plus is that I can still fit into, yes inside (which I’m not sure if that speaks to my stature or my flexibility), some cabinets inside my house.  and I can stand in my slope ceiling pantry.

But then there’s every once in a while when being short really, really irks me.

Like when a fellow parent, teacher, leader, or grown-up thinks I’m 17.  Making a comment like that might seem funny or maybe complimentary but it’s not.  It makes me feel invisible.  It makes me feel like you don’t even saw me,  just saw my height.  I know I don’t look seventeen.  I rarely (okay never) get carded for buying beer.  Maybe I don’t get carded because I always have a brood of kids with me, or maybe it’s because I carry a huge old lady purse.  Maybe it’s because the lady at the store has to look me in the eye and pay attention for a second while I fork over some cash. I don’t know, but the people at the grocery store never think I’m under 21.  When someone discounts my age, all on account of my height, it hurts my feelings.  It makes me feel defensive and invisible.

Or when someone asks if my 11-year-old is taller than me yet, um who cares?  I do hope that she will be tall. But by asking if she’s passed me up yet, you’re offending me.  You’re putting me down, I’m sure unintentionally, but you’re hurting my feelings for something I can’t do anything about.  How would you like it if I asked if you’re kid has outgrown your nose yet?

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when Mike was five.  Because if the first day of six is any indication of what the year will be like, I think I’d rather not do it.  Six mostly consisted of crying, with a splattering of complaining and a lot of disobedience.  So thanks six for coming by, but if this is how it’s going to be, I don’t think Mike’s going to make it to seven.

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Happy Birthday!

Dear Mikey,

I can’t tell you how much I love you.  You are funny.  Not just kinda funny, hella funny (there I go with the valley slang).  Everyday you come up with new insightful things.  I love seeing the world through your little eyes.  You still absolutely adore me and your Dad.  I’m still the smartest, prettiest, funniest, most talented lady you know.  And in this family kissing ass gets you a long way.

You love everything that has to do with the army.  The police are a close second.  But if the profession gets to carry a gun, you’ll add them to your short list of acceptable professions.

For Halloween you wanted to be Indiana Jones, because you really want to be Indy in real life.  I think that might be the only way to convince you to go to college instead of becoming a mercanary.  Indiana Jones is a college professor and gets to carry a gun and ride in a jeep and fight bad guys.  We couldn’t find a suitable Indy costume, so you’re going to be a GI Joe, or an E.I.O. as you call them.  While at Walmart you tried to convince me to buy a storm trooper gun, because EIO would be so much better if he had a storm trooper gun.

It’s hard being the middle child, and I’m a little sorry for that.  You’re stuck not being the baby but not yet being a big kid.  And it’s frustrating.  You want to be big and go bike riding with Marshall or play video games with Marshall and his friends, but your still little.  You still are happy to sit in my lap.  Sometimes, you still cry uncontrollably like your 2.

You’re learning to tie your shoes.  Your sister is helping  you.  And I am more than happy to let her help you.  You aren’t the sweetest child when you get frustrated.  But you have a great incentive.  Margaret’s given you Heelys and you’re dying to wear them and fall and break a bone.

I love your work ethic.  You might not be fast or very good but you usually give it your all.  Well, that is unless you’re tormenting your brother.  When Dave declared that when he works in the backyard the kids all have to work in the back yard, everyone groaned and complained.  You replied with “Really?  That is the best rule ever!”

I love how smart and inventive you are.  Not only are you wonderful with duct tape, but also cardboard and scotch tape.  You’ve recently taken up drawing and I am excited that I can now almost always identify the guns, the tanks, the enemy jets and the EIOs.

It touches my heart how much you love “your babies”.  In the morning, more often than not, I’ll find you in their cribs playing with them.  You’re quick to help them and play with them.  You love to show them new ways to get in trouble.  Things like standing on their push cars or opening doors.  You are a great big brother.

And, you are a great little brother.  You do all the things little brothers are supposed to.  You torment and follow and tease and nag.  You snitch and gripe and cry when they don’t let you play.  You borrow toys and make messes and then use your wonderful smile and quick wit to deny, deny, deny and sometimes blame.

Happy 6th Birthday!  May this year be filled with more wonderful things than you can ever remember!



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just call me sucker

I wanted to be involved at the kids school.  I think that parent involvement important.  I want the kids to know that I value their education.  I want their teachers to know that I am available and willing to help out.  This year we’re at a new school, so I wasn’t sure how to help out beyond the classroom.  I joined the PTA and I put myself on the sucker list.

When I signed up, I didn’t know it was the sucker list.  I thought it was the “parent volunteer” list.  It turns out that it’s really the sucker list.  So far I’ve been called to set up tables for back to school night, set up stations for the STAR party (don’t even get me started on the STAR party), cut up watermelons for the STAR party, and now bring all the teachers a snack.  We have a lot of teachers.

I didn’t want to break the bank with snacks for the teachers for an in-service day.  Because, really, it’s snack for the teachers.  I know they work hard, blah, blah, blah.  But really, snack for the teachers?  No one brings me snack.  I am a sucker though, and can’t say no.  So I brought snack for all the teachers and staff.   It wouldn’t be so bad, but we had to also provide all of the utensils and napkins, and plates and papers.

I was going to go all out and bring little sandwiches and cupcakes, but then, it’s snack for 50 grownups. That’s alot of little sandwiches.  So I brought them chips and dip.  And then, I was too lazy to make 50 cupcakes, and how would I get them there? So I was going to buy them yummy costco cookies, but that’s a lot of money in cookies.  Then I was going to bake cookies, but that’s a lot of cookies and did I mention, I’m lazy.  So we made popcorn balls, or “Chanel’s-a-great-big-sucker-balls”.

Like all of my ideas, it wasn’t well thought out.  I didn’t have an air popper, I asked around, and no one had one. Oh well, back to the drawing board, just as I was getting ready to make popcorn on the stove, which I’m sure would have turned out to be a disaster, Dave’s parents showed up. They had found us a popper.

The kids thought it was the coolest thing ever.  They talked about having a movie night.  or maybe inviting the circus over.  Or throwing a big party.  Or just keeping it on the counter.  Shouldn’t every family own a popcorn machine?

After quite a few batches of popcorn being popped, not to mention eaten, I was ready to start making the balls. Let me tell you, that popcorn balls aren’t as easy to make as I imagined them to be.  The combing of ingredients was easy, it was the forming of the balls. My poor little hands are just a tad burnt, because you have to work fast and the syrup stuff is HOT!

And after the balls were made we had to wrap them and make them look pretty.  And then drive them to the school on our day off between the hours of 12 and 2, which was of course when everyone was at lunch.  So to all the teachers, I’m the crafty mom who made popcorn balls, but to you, my friends, you can call me sucker.

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I hate you a little bit

This is for you, mom who lets her third grader have a cell phone.  I hate you just a little bit.  I don’t understand.  Why does a third grader need a cell phone?  I’m fighting the fight against early electronics over here.  I’m fighting the upward battle against status symbol cell phones.  And sister, you are not helping.

My sixth-grader desperately wants a cell phone.  It’s ridiculous.  Almost preposterous.  She only spends eight hours a day away from me.  Those eight hours are while she’s at school.  She can’t make any calls there.  We live 8 houses away.  If there is a true emergency she can run home.  If she leaves my house she’s going to a friends house, with supposed responsible parents who have phones.  I know because I’ve called them.  If she goes to practice, I’m there.  If not, the coach is a responsible adult with a phone. If she wants to make a phone call she can use the house phone.  It’s sitting in the kitchen collecting dust.  I know it’s rather inconvenient, it’s attached to the wall.  But she’s eleven.  There isn’t a need for a private conversation.

I just don’t see the need for my eleven-year-old to have a phone.  Daily we get reports of everybody who has a cell phone.  We hear about the first and second graders with phones.  So this is for you, mom who lets her elementary school child have a cell phone.  I’m sorry, but I hate you just a little bit.

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Last year for my birthday my father-in-law gave me the BEST birthday present ever.  When I first got it, I’m not going to lie, I wasn’t too thrilled.  I didn’t think it was really a present for me.  It was something that my husband wanted.  I had no inclination for one at all.  I got a bbq grill.

I do really well in the kitchen.  I can saute and bake and broil and fry and do all of those things that involve the oven/stove/george foreman but I don’t bbq.  It’s just not my thing.  Cooking over an open flame just doesn’t appeal to me.  I’m content to cook over my glowing red electric stove.

I’m sure that my father-in-law saw the disappointment.  He assured me that really this was a great present.  I would appreciate it when Dave started doing all the cooking.

Boy was he right!  There is something about this whole cooking over an open flame that men love.  Grilling some raw meat is right up the testosterone alley.  The best thing about grilled food?  The clean up.  It’s a snap.  Especially because grilled food calls for paper plates.  I swear it does.  I just do the prep, Dave does the rest and that makes me happy.

For all of you back east, I know that your grilling season is coming to an end, but here in California we can grill all year long.  And you better believe that there are some cold days in February where Dave is out there huddled around the bbq with gloves on.

For an extra little tip on marinating.  Take a bottle of anything–salsa, bbq sauce, italian dressing, whatever dump it in a freezer bag and plop in the meat.  Squish it around and freeze it.  Instant marinated meat.  This is great for me too because I am TERRIBLE about remembering to marinate.

That is what works for me.

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Why mom?  Why do you torture us so?  First, you strap us into this rolling contraption of death.  It seems rather flimsy.  Don’t you know I’m a scaredy cat? Then you put these big hard hats on us and buckle them onto our heads.  I scream because I think you’re going to pinch my poor sensitive chubby little chin and neck.  I howl because it’s scary going down our long steep driving.  I think I might run into you.  I yell a lot because I want to make sure that you don’t forget I’m still back here.  I’d be really really sad if for some reason we got separated.  I’m not sure if I like how fast we’re going.  Can you please slow down! Please for the love of all things good SLOW DOWN!  I don’t know if I like this whole “wind in my hair” thing.  Idefinitely don’t like how you point out all of the cars.  Don’t you know how close they are to me?  I definitely don’t like how my brother Mikey rides his bike so close to us.  Sometimes it looks like he’s going to crash into you, and then you swerve and then I cry.  It’s not fun!  No matter what Nathaniel tells you, this bike riding thing is not fun!  He only likes it because Danger is his middle name.  And bike riding is kinda dangerous mom.

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just call me miser

My fridge is old, probably as old as I am.  It was a hand me down from my grandma.  It’s large and snazy looking.  It fits our needs, being that it stays cold and was free.  And it has a control that says “power miser”.  That is the coolest thing ever.  That is now my new super hero name.  Chanel:  The power miser.  My kids would probably latch onto that.  I’m constantly telling them to turn lots off and unplug things.  “What? Do we own stock in pg&e?  Do you see any solar cells on our roof?”.

With the whole economy taking a nose dive off of a very long scary cliff and our stocks looking like they can’t go any lower my alarmist tendencies are getting the better of me.

My pantry is brimming because what if this ends up like depression era Germany.  My freezer is full of meat. I’m training my family to eat more meatless meals. I’m thinking about taking some pointers from the Mormons and storing a years worth of  flour, beans, and rice just in case we end up poor.

I’ve also started reading the Tightwad Gazette to get some new pointers.  I’m constantly trying to broaden my horizons and education. I’m not sure though if I can hop on board with some of the author’s tightwaddery.  Things like reusing aluminum foil for more than a year and all the bags that all food comes in.  She takes the reduce, reuse, recycle to the next level.  Though I do recycle like crazy, I don’t reuse as much as I should.  I’m not quite at the miser level of the tightwads but I can hop on board with being an energy miser.

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You know those moms.  Those crazy fanatical soccer moms.  The ones that want their kids to practice more.  That want more strategy.  That want the kids to be taught how to play hard. That want them to win. Those moms that talk smack to the coach (or maybe smack behind his back).  I’m turning into the crazy mom.

Last year we belonged to a really competitive soccer league.  At age 5 they didn’t keep score but they played by the rules and they had a goalie.  By age 7, soccer was serious, we’re talking intense training and lots of strategic plays.  I hate to brag, but my kids are good.  They were the stars of the team.  Marshall consistently scored a couple of goals each game and his team placed first in his division.  Mikey was a really aggressive player and a good goalie.

This year, the league we belong to isn’t competitive.  It falls into the category of “recreational”.  At age 6 they don’t practice. There aren’t goalies.  They don’t even teach them the rules.  The kids are pointed in the direction of their goal and we all hope for the best.  During the first game Mike stood in front of  the small goalie and the coaches kept telling him to go play.  He finally yelled, “I’m defending the goal!  You forgot to make someone goalie.”  By the end of the third game, Mike was tackling the ball and using his hands.  He told us, “it’s okay, they don’t play by the rules here”.

Marshall’s team is a little better.  They don’t have the intense strategy that we had last year.  The kids aren’t playing as if there life depended on winning.  It’s all fun and games out there.  Everyone gets to play equal time and positions.  It’s really, um, what’s the word I’m looking for, um, fair.

I keep talking to the other moms, trying to get someone on my side.  Don’t they think we should be playing harder?  Don’t they think it should be a little more competitive?  Shouldn’t we practice more?  Shouldn’t we be playing the good kids more?  Isn’t that what sports are all about?  winning.

I get a lot of strange looks.  One mom flat out said she’d rather her kid get to play equal time than we win.  Then I thought about it.  I don’t have to worry about that.  My kids are good.  I don’t have to worry if they’ll get equal time.  They will.  And if they don’t.  That’s a lesson in life.  If you want to play on the field you need to practice hard.  If you want to win, you need to play harder.  I want them to push themselves to win.  If they just want to play for fun, that’s fine. But I didn’t shell out $135 per kid to just have fun.  They can play soccer at recess for that.  Or they can play with their friends on Saturdays or after school.

I want them to learn to play hard.  To give their team all they have and if that’s not good enough, to push themselves a little further.  When they’re in the last quarter and there team is down, I don’t want them to think, “Well, we gave it our best shot.”  I want them to want to win. I want them to try harder, to inspire their team mates to try harder.  If they lose, then I want them to strive to do better.  To practice harder so they can win at the next game.

I think when we take the competitiveness out of sports we lose the point of participating.  We put our kids at a disadvantage.  If everyone can play and everyone gets equal time we aren’t encouraging them to be the best that they can be.  We’re giving them a sense of entitlement when they only have to participate to get a trophy. I think our world is full of too many people with a sense of undeserved entitlement.

I’ll just step down off of my little soap box and go over in the corner with all the other crazy soccer mom who wish that city league could be a little more competitive.

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