Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Evasive Maneuvers

President-elect, Barack Obama, promised many things during his historic run for the white house, and as January 20 draws near, Americans wait, with open wallets, for him to make good on those promises. Tax cuts, new jobs, green energy (and extra cash to pay for them), etc.

But there was one, little mentioned promise, that the company I and my husband have invested in is taking steps to side-step, for the coming year, at least. What was that promise, you ask? To double the dividend tax. "But wait", you say, "He said over and over that anyone making less than $250,000 a year would not have taxes raised, but lowered".

HELLO?! Did every voting citizen in this country forget that income tax is only one of many taxes you pay and that is the only tax he promised not to raise???

So, for those of us that are not counting on the myth of Social Security to be around when we reach that magic age, nor relied on an arm-twisting union thug to squeeze pensions out of a failing company to support us forever, but actually chose where to invest our own money and counted on dividends as part of our financial strategy - we're going to feel a bit leaner for the next 4 to 8 years (increased capital gains tax, estate tax, dividend tax, and even a 401K contribution tax).

But thanks to evasive maneuvers by one company we're invested in, for us, it will only be the next 3 to 7 years. They have decided to pro-rate 2009 dividends and pay them out before the end of this year, subjecting them to the nice, low 2008 tax rate and not the promised, doubled 2009 rate.

God Bless corporate America.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Not a Creature Was Stirring....

Someone call Terminix! I have had an infestation - of over-active creativity. Again. Here's my defense. My children go to a private school where they get Godiva Chocolate Sampler boxes from their classmates as treats (which I promptly confiscate as being "way too good for children"). So what I lack in funds, I have to make up for in creativity. Hence, the perennial favorite, the Christmas candy cane mouse. Lots of them. One hundred and thirty three to be exact.

Hey, they're cute, cheap and easy.

(but enough about Sean's ideal prom date.)

there is no
the end

Friday, December 12, 2008

Dashing to the Mail

It's that time of year when many of us momentarily ditch our digital lives of email, texting, cellphones, online bill paying, and yes, facebooking, and we use that oldest of old forms of communication - the US Mail. Yes, it's Christmas letter time! The only time of year that I actually beat my children to the mailbox. I love this annual celebration of exchanging photocards and yearly wrap-ups with a little bragging thrown in gratis. And I noticed that most Christmas cards fall into one of three categories. So here they are:

The Shameless Boaster
"Little Johnny is an all-star baseball player destined for the MLB. He got all A's in his superior-brains-only classes, got the lead in the school play" and on and on it goes. Every child is a prodigy, the husband is a super successful corporate ladder climber, and the wife does triathalons and has her own scrapbooking or jewelry company. The family picture is a stunning portrait in matching outfits at an exotic location. Your smile, when you receive these letters, has a tooth grinding quality to it.

The Tom Clancy Letter
These Christmas letters usually come in multiple pages, small print. "We went to the park, Aunt Jody came to visit, we made sloppy joes for dinner and little Suzie lost a tooth. The next week...." You learn things you never knew you didn't want to know. These letters are accompanied by not one, but multiple pictures in various locations. It's like being forced to sit down on their couch and look through their family photo album while they prattle endlessly about themselves. If only there were a Cliff Notes version.

The Identity-Theft Paranoid
These are the kinds of Christmas letters that come from people in the witness protection program. They consist of a generic card that may or may not be signed with no personal word of greeting or acknowledgment. You have to look at the return address to see who it's from. There's no picture, no letter, nothing you could track them down with. All the same, they went through the trouble of putting a stamp on the envelope, so you feel a morsal of their love and holiday warmth.

But, no matter the category, I love getting Christmas cards and I devote an entire wall in my house to display them every year. As Christmas draws near the wall fills up and I try to leave them up for at least a week after I get the last one. Although if I waited for my sister, Becky, they'd be up until March. So run to your mailboxes, because my shameless bragging, Tom Clancy letter with our picture in matching outfits at the beach is on the way!

Saturday, December 6, 2008

A Wealth of Stupidity

I don't recall making any designer fashion purchases lately but for some unknown reason, I received a Tourneau catalog in the mail. For the mere mortals out there, Tourneau is an ultra high-end watch company that puts Gucci in Dior on the back pages for the lesser customers.

Within the glossy pages of this uber-elegant catalog were watches inlaid with gold, forged with platinum, encrusted with diamonds and/or bound with alligator leather all costing more than most people's houses. This little dandy is a Breguet Classique and can be yours at the triffling price of $214,000. No kidding.

My question is, if it takes brains to be wealthy (Paris Hilton aside) why would anyone spend that kind of money just so they can keep track of the time? Isn't high fashion just a big-time scam to dupe the ultra rich out of their money by making them believe ordinary items are worth many times their cost just because of a label or name?

I don't get it.

there is no
the end

Monday, December 1, 2008

I'm Coming Out

Don't Panic mom ! I simply would like to take a moment to say that we all have skeletons in our closets. The skeletons of which I speak of are those songs and artists that we may not be so eager to admit that we listen to or like.

I have decided to disclose this personal information about myself because I truly believe we all have someone we listen to that others find silly, outdated, or just downright repulsive.

So here is a list of artists and songs that I like and maybe a little sentimental reason behind why I am so loyal.

First and foremost Michael Jackson. He's creepy and strange with less than one percent of his original face left ( and the rest detachable) but gosh darn it , I just want to bust a move every time I hear his old school stuff.. what can I say.

Lenny Kravits ( If he ever shows up at my door and asks me to run off with him, I told Alex, he will just have to understand.)

Billy Idol - White wedding ( if you say you don't like Billy .. you are lying)
Bobby Brown - ahh junior high school
Cake - Short skirt long jacket/ every girl wants to be like the one described in this song ( with fingernails that shine like justice)
Black eyed Peas- my kids get psychotic when I sing their songs
Boyz 11 Men - oh baby !
The Carrs - okay when I was a kid they had a video on MTV and he was a fly, after that I was hooked
Kool and the Gang - She's Fresh ( that song is so fresh)
Pet Shop Boys - Eastern Boys Western Girls .. so hot
Wyclef Jean - sometimes I just want to move to Port Au Prince, make my hair into dreads and strum my guitar on the beach.
Duran Duran - Hungry Like the Wolf
Tom Petty - a little demented .. which is just how I like it
Sting/Police - Don't stand so close to me - The theme song of every good looking male high school teacher
Toto - Africa
Toni Tony Tone - I got nothin here
Flock Of Seagulls - I ran ( when one feels like running )
Rolling stones ( table dance!)
Wang Chung ( eighties party song yeah!)
New Edition
Earth Wind and Fire ( great for romantic moments .. which people my age no longer experience)
George Michael ( I liked him before he came out okay? Besides after he did his music just wasn't that good anymore anyways. )

I think I've embarrassed myself enough .. your turn.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Christmas Sprawl

Is it just me or is the Christmas season starting sooner and sooner? Time was, the official start of the Christmas shopping season was the day after Thanksgiving. On that day, my mom and sisters and I would start early in the morning leaving our digestively recovering males behind and hit the malls and shopping centers for door busters and one-day sales.

Now you see Christmas decorations, pre-lit trees, wrapping paper, gift tags, gift bags, ornaments, greeting cards, candy, and gigantic blow-up lawn creatures even before Halloween is over. Does anyone really buy these things that far in advance? I guess marketers are telling us that we must, so we do.

The trouble with this forward creeping Christmas season? My five-year-old has been asking how long until he can open his as yet non-existent presents since he spied the first 8-foot snow globe blaring "Jingle-Bells" at Walmart back on October 15th.

It's going to be a long season.

there is no
the end

Thursday, November 20, 2008

The Very Foolish Caterpillar

What would Darwin have to say about this creature who's about to eat through the leaf he is standing on? Lucky for him (or not), he's been captured by my children who are attempting for the third time to observe the miraculous metamorphosis from caterpillar to butterfly. What I have learned from this experience is, I prefer the whimsical, poop-free, Eric Carle version.

The first time they attempted to observe this, we bought a kit complete with a tented butterfly cage, fake plastic flowers, and a little card you could mail in and receive a cup full of caterpillars in return. The problem was, the bottom of the tent never secured properly and we ended up with butterflies flying around the house. Pretty as their wings may be, I do not approve of insects flying at will in the place where I eat and sleep. So we set them free - after which the unpredictable Omaha Spring weather promptly dropped to 40 degrees. (That's the epilogue Carle never published.)

The second attempt involved a single caterpillar caught on the backyard crown-flower tree which is a favorite food of Monarch larvae. He was put in a store bought insect cage with plenty of fodder and he eventually made a chrysalis. But when he emerged, his wings never fully extended and their deformed shape prevented him from flying. We set him free in the backyard thinking the fresh air would encourage proper wing formation, and he was promptly eaten by a Myna bird (who promptly died because Monarchs are poisonous - ah, the circle of death).

This time we ditched all cages and tents and made an attractive arrangement of crown-flower sprigs in a vase and each leaf had a tiny caterpillar on it. I would add new branches when they needed more food and their green pellet poop rained down like a hail storm all over the shoe shelf. They chomped away, never straying from their food source although we had a couple Darwin-award winning appetite choices which landed creepers on the floor. One which I accidently stepped on and will now have to be added to my list of grossest things I done in my life. (Imagine stepping on a goo-filled gummy bear.)
Now I have chrysalises forming on my window as the glutted caterpillars seek something stable to attach to while they do their amazing transforming act. Third time's a charm? We'll see.... more...

Saturday, November 15, 2008

City Mouse Country Mouse

I realize that I am living in one of the most beautiful places in the world. Not many places can compare to Alaska with it's beautiful mountains,forests, and Aurora Borealis. People move here from all over the world. They come to hike. They hike the mountains, they scale the rocks, they hike the glaciers, they eat cliff bars and shop at REI, they join cross country skiing clubs,they do not wear makeup, they drive jeeps or Subarus with racks on top. They live for the outdoors and tell stories of hiking McKinley or windsurfing in frigid waters, or of bear encounters while camping, they bag their own feces and pack it out. Get the picture?

I work at the Center for the performing Arts in ticketing and get paid squat, but I see the shows for free. Sometimes I stand backstage and watch from behind the curtain while a jazz musician plays the trumpet to a full house and I can feel my soul. I'll watch just about any show that rolls into town. We don't get much, Alaska seems to be the last stop as a shows popularity winds down around other parts of the country. I don't care. I watch operas, modern dance, ballet, jazz, symphonies, pianists, Irish folk music, and just about anything else.

Give me New York with all of it's noise and bustle and people everywhere who look different and speak different. Give me a place where I am at the top of the food chain and have no worries of being trampled by a moose or devoured by a bear who according to experts doesn't WANT to eat people. Throw a boa around my neck, take me out to a show and let's laugh all night.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Social Networking and Your Potential Employer

On that same note Ray....

You may want to remove "cheating, stealing, embezzling" from your list of favorite hobbies on your MySpace/Facebook account considering that potential employers may be checking you out. Your profile picture of you gripping a liquor bottle, eyes glazed over might just send the wrong impression.

Really folks, just the fact that you have a MySpace/Facebook almost sends the impression that you are in fact a teenager (in your head). You're already screwed, so you might as well add the newest Puff Daddy song to autoplay on your page... you know you want to.

P.S. I need one more facebook friend to make 60 so if you don't mind.....
we don't have to talk or anything

there no
the end

Thursday, November 13, 2008

My Inner Adolescent

This week I embarked upon the strange world of modern, teenage "communication" by creating my own facebook page. I could just feel the adolescent acne and enthusiasm for Bon Jovi oozing back into my being. First I created a profile - little factoids about me, uploaded a picture of myself.... then what? I sat there wondering what my "status" and "wall" were. Then, all of a sudden, by no doing of my own, my 20-something cousin, from San Jose that I haven't seen in years was chatting with me. Like a young child leading an old blind woman, he taught me how to "update my status", "request friends", how to "poke" someone, and of course, how to write on someone's wall. What I didn't learn was, what is the point of it all?

Communication has rapidly degenerated, inversely proportionate to the development of technology. Email took the individuality of handwriting and doodles out of snail mail. Texting took inflection, tone, and proper grammar out of phone calls. And now we have facebook that takes interaction to an all new low where you simply write words into the cyber breeze and people may or may not respond. And when actual words are too hard to come up with, you can send a virtual poke, hug, chest bump, tickle or drop kick.

So why join the digital non-gab? For one thing, it gives your self-esteem a boost every time you log in and five more people want to be your friend. Of course most friends just sit in your friend collection without ever interacting, like a box of action figures or a pile of stuffed animals. Others may share virtual activities with you like going to a movie, going shopping, playing a game of virtual dodgeball, or they can even give you a virtual gift. It's like having an imaginary friend who talks back, sort of. And while it is great to reconnect with old friends from highschool and beyond, after an initial burst of curiosity about marital status, location, and number of offspring, you are reminded of why you never really bothered to keep in touch with this person all these years. And back to the stuffed animal pile they go.

Well, I shall continue to keep my facebook account for the time being. I shall update my status that only refers to me in the third person and occasionally write on my virtual friends' virtual walls. I do enjoy sharing and seeing photos. But I'm not sure the connecting benefits outweigh the addictive hours spent poking and jabbing virtual friends as a form of communication that is just that - a virtual illusion.

Friday, November 7, 2008

You Might Be A SAHM If...

You use an assignment to bring a veggie tray to get attention and gain notoriety among the class moms.

there is no
the end

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

I Did it My Way

The end is near and now we face the final curtains my friends. But the question remains, what will we do with ourselves now ? What will fill the empty hours once filled with calls from electronic political machines, completely void of any human warmth? What is left to possibly debate about with our family , friends, coworkers , and the random psychotic lady at the grocery store? What will take the place of the soul warming political ads on television that we so eagerly anticipated with our bowls of ice cream every evening.

My dear bloggers we must move forward and carry on, it's time to let go, to talk of other things. Soon we will learn again what it is like to be comfortable in the presence of others, even if we don't know their political affiliations, but fear not for in four years time, again we will experience the stress and intestinal turmoil that elections bring.

Happy Elections Day
Love Ambie and Ray

the end

D-V-Don't and V-H-Yes

The evolution of technology is similar to the evoloution of organisms. Either the new species flourishes and the old one dies off, the new one dies off and the old one remains, or the two live side by side in a new balance and harmony. CDs have definitely taken the place of cassette tapes but MDs failed to take the place of CDs. Pianos replaced harpsichords but live alongside keyboards. It is nature's way.

But we humans just can't seem to keep our itchy fingers out of the way. We choose one species over another, and sometimes, one technology over another. And the results aren't necessarily for the best.

Such is the case with DVDs and VHSs. Yes, DVDs are the more advanced form of media distribution, but a niche remains for VHSs, yet they have been forceably removed from the technological gene pool.

It's no secret that my children are hard on things, and movies are no different. I have a pile of DVDs that are no longer in working condition because of sticky fingers and crumby floors, yet I had to pay more for them. On the other hand, I've had VHS cases crack and lose pieces and once I even scotch taped a pulled out and broken reel and they still work! Durability is way more important to me than seeing SpongeBob in high-def clarity.

Distributors like Costco and Walmart switched to exclusively selling DVDs not because of decreased demand for VHSs, but to minimize inventory and increase profit margins since DVDs are cheaper to make and more can be charged for them. Meanwhile, with the death of my VCR (does anyone even know what that is anymore?) I'm left in this peculiar paradox of having working movies and nothing to play them on and scratched and broken movie discs with working DVD players.

I guess we'll have to read, go outside and play, or talk to eachother for entertainment.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Spooky Advice

Here is Ray's no-fail guidelines for having your child win costume contests year after year:

Rule 1:
for girls - don't dress-up as any Disney character
for boys - don't dress-up as any superhero and/or ninja/martial arts thingy

Rule 2:
Don't buy your costume at Costco.

Rule 3:
Dress up as anything that doesn't violate rules 1 or 2.

Those that know me know that I am not a frilly person. I don't decorate my house. I don't have an extensive wardrobe and neither do my children. I don't toll paint, stamp, or scrapbook. Martha Stewart, to me, is the epitome of useless froufrou.

That being said, I love to dress my kids up for Halloween. Often I end up sewing, glueing, painting, and rigging up elaborate productions that my children wear long enough for me to take a picture, then run screaming from. I also like the children's costumes to be related. So when my son wanted to be Batman, my daughter had no choice but to be Robin. Then when my older two kids wanted to be Harry Potter and Hermione, my toddler had the privilege of being Hedwig. One year I sewed a Buzz Lightyear costume that had 48 pieces and cost almost $50 in supplies alone (unfortunately my daughter was old enough to refuse to be Woody).

Of course this was all before I discovered the 3 rules to winning costume contests. I have since been dubbed the queen of useless Halloween costume froufrou.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Sonnet of Humidity


As summer fades to the rains of fall
The chuckle of the brook turns to laugh.
The mold gains strength in my shower stall
And beware the abundance of staph.

Clouds billow from my spaghetti pot
Rust creeps upon my brads.
My brow beads with sweat alot,
My hair as soft as Brillo pads.

Moisture fills the heavy air,
Every breath of breeze divine.
Clammy skin sticks to the leather chair.
The laundry just steams on the line.

Who calls this "paradise" is crazy.
Or maybe they have central A/C.

there is no
the end

Friday, October 17, 2008

Grumpy Old Ladies

There are good things about going to a "family" gym (no bare midriffs or thongs, friendly childcare, no getting hit on by creepy guys without jobs) and there are bad things about going to a "family" gym (all light rock all the time, halls full of summer camp kids). And then there are the things that are both good and bad. One of the things that fits into that last category is the grumpy old ladies that go to the water aerobics classes. When I get to the gym they are all floating in the pool; their wrinkled heads, with wide-brimmed hats and wrap-around sunglasses, bobbing around like the start of a really creepy horror flick. By the time I'm finished working out they are in the locker room, in all their unclothed, dimpled glory, sitting, standing, or showering, all the while chattering on about their grandkids and pets, their trips and their trips.

They are friendly and generally happy and I get a kick out their conversation topics that range from who of their friends died and whether their husbands are available to who had what surgery and what internal organ is now missing or replaced with a medical gadget. They always mention how young and fit I am, and how they were exactly the same when they were my age. They love hearing about my children, are flatteringly shocked that I have four, and are sure that mine are the smartest, most athletic, and cutest children ever (second only to their own grandkids, of course).

So what's the downside to this jolly, geriatric company? The visuals make me want to die young.

there is no
the end

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

While the Rich Get Thinner...

Since the world was created, you could choose any time, any country, and be able to separate the wealthy from the poor purely on size. The wealthy are rotund, jolly, and red in the cheeks, looking like they can survive a couple of famines without a frown creasing their thick jowls. The poor are hollow-eyed and weary and look like one good shove or an unfortunate misstep could leave them in a broken heap of skin-covered bones.

Well, that is no longer the case. Not in the US, at least - just the opposite is true.

It's been a while since I've had to really squeeze myself into my budget. But since moving to Hawaii, the price of housing, a decent education, gas, and Froot Loops, has thrown me back into my days as a starving student, except now I have children. Because of this I have discovered how expensive it is to eat in a healthy manner. Tomatoes cost $4/lbs while I can get a case of Top Ramen for $2.

No wonder, then, that we see this bizarro-world phenomenon of the thin rich and the thick poor. Add to that the fact that hardly anyone does any manual labor anymore. We have automatic dishwashers and dryers, tv remotes, drive-through pharmacies, bread machines, leaf blowers, and power steering. Only the wealthy can afford gym memberships, personal trainers, or exercise equipment. (There has got to be some irony in the fact that we invent machines to do our work, then invent other machines to make us do work.)

How confusing to time travellers would our modern day be when they see multi-millionaire movie stars looking frail and sickly while their maids and drivers always have something comfortable to sit on.

Oh, and if anyone has any tips or suggestions on how to feed a family healthy, natural foods on a budget, I'm all...I guess on a blog you wouldn't say "ears". I'm all eyes!

Saturday, October 11, 2008

In Love With A Vampire

New Moon
Breaking Dawn

If you have not heard of these books, you have either been living in a cave or are lucky enough to have little to no teenage contact. This series of seemingly harmless titles has for the past three years sent dreamy eyed teenage girls swarming the bookstores like bloodthirsty vampires would a blood bank.

Teenage drama books come and go with the tide but these are special .. so my teens said, and as I do not consider myself above a good read at any age level, I brought home a copy of each and braced myself for a lot of blood and gore .... Alas ! Wrong I was, instead I was treated to several s-t-e-a-m-y make out sessions. What the??? All of the sudden I felt a little embarrassed, the same way you would feel watching a steamy love scene sitting next to your kids. Is it getting hot in here?

If you haven't read them, don't. I'll sum it up for you. Girl meets vampire. Girl falls in love with vampire. Girl and vampire decide to wait to have sex until marriage (and until she can become a vampire herself) but decide that anything just short of the deed itself is okay.

What's sad is that the whole "my boyfriend's a vampire and saves me from monsters" gives teenage girls an unrealistic view of boys and men who happen to be human beings, not saviors or sex objects, not to mention the fact that the vampire boyfriend has this girl holed up in her house and will not allow her to see her friends. So let's not be surprised when our teenage daughters find some abusive controlling jerk to latch onto.

Sorry, Meyers fans, but these books are full of some pretty frightening stuff that really has nothing to do with the vampires in them and are not much better than a trashy romance novel.


Saturday, October 4, 2008

Smile, You're not Dying of Dysentery

It's easy to hop on the bandwagon of pessimism in an election year. It's easy to spot those that have jumped on-board by their blood-shot eyes from watching CNN and their fatalistic nihlism. They're discouraged by the quality of their choices, the system, the negative campaigning, and their idiot fellow voters. The nature of campaigning is partly to blame. Each side of an election has to convince its voters that their lives will be awful, nigh unto destroyed, if the other guy is elected. And this year we have the added doom and gloom of a financial crisis on a large scale.

It's enough to start a Prozac riot, but don't run for your torch and pitchfork just yet. You will see that your 401K is not half empty, but half full.

Believe it or not, the Founding Fathers did know what they were doing when they set up a constitutional republic 200-odd years ago. Here are a few reasons the nation will not crumble to rubble on January 20, 2009 however the election turns out.

Term Limits: Ah, the magic catapult on the top floor. No matter how popular a President, no matter how accomplished, how intelligent, how revered - after 4 or 8 years, the collective people kick him head first out the door and down the steps and look for someone else. No regimes, no dynasties, no long term manipulation of the government.

A Two-Party System: I hear so many people complain that they want more than 2 choices or that they vote for "the lesser of two evils", etc. The most important thing a two-party system does is force the candidates to please the middle majority. Think about it. If there were 5 candidates, they only have to worry about getting the most votes, not a majority, so they can afford to be more extreme and win by only appealing to 20% of the population. Having two moderate choices is better than 5 wackos, really. Still don't believe me? Try reading the platforms of the libertarian or green party candidates on the ballot. Do you really want these guys to have a serious shot at the white house?

A Resilient History: Like dramatic teenagers, we have a tendency to think that our troubles now are the worst ever! Lest we forget - this country was forged in the furnace of war and rebellion. It has seen world war on its shores, civil war, economic depression, presidential assasination and impeachment, and the rise of reality TV. And yet it not only survives, but flourishes.

So even though you may think we are surely at the doorstep of Hades with corrupted leaders, economic greed, a poor education system, racism, poverty, and celebrity activists, this nation really is, in the words of William J. Bennett, "The Last Best Hope". Where else in the world do they have pet food drives and fundraisers to save lobsters?

Monday, September 29, 2008

I'm Hungry

Mom taught us that when you make a meal you can put just about anything found in the fridge in it, as long as you start by frying up hamburger meat and celery. To this base she would add things like peas, ketchup, stewed tomatoes, raisins, Italian dressing, tortilla shells, and any other condiment imaginable. Despite this seemingly horrible method of child abuse, we were grateful for her cooking for one reason, it meant that GrandMa was not cooking.

Grandma's cooking was and still is comparable to an episode of fear factor. Her specialty was soup into which what ever rotting vegetable on the counter top was thrown in. Grandma did not refrigerate her produce for reasons unknown, and when the stench became overwhelming enough or the juices began to drip on the floor, she would have us take them outback, along with all the eggshells she had been saving the past week, and throw them into the garden as compost.

Along with this came a menagerie of outdated and odd table manners we were forced to submit to, such as eating our peas on a knife. Dinnertime was always accompanied with an account on how her father had and required his children to have impeccable table manners and how we should just be grateful...not for anything in particular but just in general.

Later in my teenage years when grandma no longer lived with us we came to a sort of truce if you will. Mom was busy working and may have been somewhat put out with the mental strain of thinking up these bizarre concoctions she called meals, and we kids ( now teens ) yearned for more popular food alternatives, such as mac and cheese, pop tarts, and ramen. At some point in my life I became so ravenously hungry that "good cook" was vital in a potential mate . So I married a man ... barefoot and in the kitchen you can find him cooking up the most savory fare, recipes passed on from generation to generation and yes we and our children are very happy and pleasantly plump. Heaven bless those who can cook.

My Fantasy Book Club

If I had total autonomy over the next book club I host, here is what I would plan:

I would serve Cheetos and rootbeer as refreshments. I'd have action figures and matchbox cars available. And we'd finish with a huge game of freeze tag or capture the flag. Why, you ask? Because my book club meeting would include only 8 to 12 year-old BOYS!

No, I don't have a deathwish for all my breakables (like I have any to begin with). It's just that the books I've enjoyed the most lately have come from my 9 year-old son's bookshelf. Here are my three favorite 'tween boy book series.

Peter and the Star Catchers
by Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson
This is a 3 book series written as a prequel to the Peter Pan story. The authors cleverly explain the origins of the magical elements of Peter's life, how the Darling parents meet and James M. Barrie makes a cameo appearance. The books are fast moving and action packed. They introduce new enemies beyond the bi-polar, comical Cap'n Hook, but skip the un-PC references to "Injuns" replacing them with a tropical-island tribe.

by Brandon Mull
The author has published 3 of what will eventually be a 5 book series. This is your typical real-world meets fantasy-world story where the good and evil creatures keep a tenuous balance. The stories are overflowing with magical adventure including a cow of Paul Bunyan proportions, getting digested by a stone demon, a mortal-immortal love story, and a wonderful over-riding theme of being safe from evil as long as you don't invite it in.

The Lightning Thief
by Rick Riordan
This is Greek Mythology set in the modern world but in a thoughtful, clever way. Not like the cheesy "Medusa goes to the Mall" kind of books. Four books have been published with one more in the works. These books follow the adventures of Percy Jackson who is half-god half-mortal in the heroic tradition of Hercules, Theseus and Achilles. These book have not only action and adventure, but humor and wit.

Okay, so this isn't the stuff of college literature, but it does take me back to my own 'tween years of devouring Madeline L'Engle and the Chronicles of Narnia. It's great fun to talk with my son about the books, what our favorite moments and characters are, and what we think is going to happen next. It also makes me grateful I have a son and not a daughter of this age so I don't have to discuss love-sick vampires and irresolute girls with their sexual curiousity on overdrive.

shoot, I just lost all my friends.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Finding Middle Ground

You would think that two people raised in the same country, similar family set-ups, the same values and religion, would not have to adjust or compromise too much when they got married. You're both on pretty much the same page and just need to make sure to turn the pages at the same time, right?

Um, wrong.

I was surprised at all the things I thought "all families did this way" which, apparently, they don't. So after 13 years of adjusting and compromising, my husband and I have created a functioning (most of the time) family that is neither a recreation of his family or mine, but a freakish, mutation of the two with a thing or two that is all our own. Here is a list of the issues we came to the marriage differing on and what we've morphed them into.

His Family:
My husband's family is big with believing in Santa. His parents played it up alot and all his siblings believed for a long time. They have a specific traditional Christmas Eve dinner by candlelight then open all their gifts before they go to sleep. Christmas morning is dedicated to reading the Christmas story from the Bible in unison.

Her Family:
Neither me nor my siblings ever remembers a time when we believed in Santa. Our tradition was that we chose names and in secret, filled each others stockings. We opened all our gifts Christmas morning and the Bible story, got stuck in there somewhere along the way.

Our Family:
I just can't do Santa with my kids. My husband thinks I'm a huge party pooper, but I can't bring myself to lie to my children. I seriously can't. We open our gifts Christmas morning (unless we're with his family) and focus on the Bible story Christmas Eve.

His Family:
My husband's family is quiet, polite, and helpful. They all work hard, only say nice things to each other, and only fart in private. His parents were pretty strict growing up and didn't hesitate to "cut a switch off the ol' willow tree".

Her Family:
An aunt described us as "wild and undisciplined" and a good family friend predicted that many of us would end up in jail. We were loud, mean, and farted at will. Although chaos seemed to reign in the house, my parents were always calm, never raised their voices, and I can only think of two incidents when someone got spanked (not me).

Our Family:
If I had a willow tree, it would be bare by now. While our children tend to be wild, we try (mostly unsuccessfully) to keep a lid on it. My mother was always cool as a cucumber. I regularly freak out.

His Family:
My husband's family is not just an on-time family, they are early. They plan things in advance and execute in an organized, orderly manner.

Her Family:
We were always late - to school, church, the airport, whatever. Our attempts at planning, coordinating, and orderly execution would typically end in joyful chaos.

Our Family:
My children have been tardy to school exactly 2 times in the 5 five years I've had school kids. We get to church early and have never even come close to missing a plane. Still, we generate a lot of chaos in everything we do.

His Family:
My husband and his siblings all went to good ol' US public schools. They rode the bus and bought school lunch.

Her Family:
All my sibs and I spent at least a few years of private school and/or were driven out of district to school. My mom always made our lunches and I only rode a bus for two of my thriteen years in school.

side note: All of my sibs and my husband's sibs graduated from the same university.

Our Family:
Our kids currently attend private school and before that went to charter schools. They've never ridden a bus to school and only occasionally buy school lunch.

His Family:
Only cars made in the US of A

Her Family:
Only cars made outside the US of A

Our Family:
We have a Camry and an Odyssey. Nuff said.


Saturday, September 20, 2008

My Nipple Nightmare

It's supposed to be the most natural instinct. The amazing human body creates new life and brings it into the world. That amazing body is also equipped to feed that new life and women from Eve on down have been doing it and propagating the species for over 6000 years. Apparently if I had been Eve, humans would never have made it past the second generation. The only reason my babies have survived is through the miracle of technology that has brought us formula, the bottle, and an indispensible invention called "the nipple shield".

I know, it sounds like the top half of "the chastity belt" and looks like a rice paddy hat, but it really is the only way my abundant-in-size/deficient-in-milk, um, feedbags, can do their god-given task. It's a cross between wearing Madonna cones and siphoning gas out of your car.

I don't know why other mothers and babies all over the world, through all the ages can fit together like keys in a lock and I'm the only one trying to shove a watermelon into a keyhole and wondering why it isn't working. I envy the mothers who can pull the all-night feedings half asleep by basically lifting the flap. I, on the other hand, have to go through a 10-step process that leaves me and baby frustrated, crying, and ready to throw in the breast pad.

But I trudge on with my trusty nipple shield of faith knowing that someday, somehow all this effort will be worth it.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Got Corruption?

I don't know about everybody else but it seems that everyone in our local government is under fire for some sort of corruption, here's the low down here in AK

Senator Ted Stevens : About to begin trial in D.C. for accepting bribes from oil company executives which include such things as home remodeling and properties among other things totaling about 250k. The man must be at least 150 years old and comes from a time when such behavior was easier to keep on the down low.

Sarah Palin: Under Investigation for firing the public safety commissioner because he would not fire her x brother in law during her sisters divorce. Okay ... the man tazed /tazered his stepson and was caught drinking while on the job.. in his patrol car! How did this man not get fired a long time ago ? Sarah claims commissioner Monogan took unauthorized trips to D.C. to promote his own spending agenda. Sarah Palin: Deflating ego's one jerk at a time, any way she can.

Mayor Mark Begich: Recently fined for failing to disclose all of his income including campaign contributions from less that savory political characters also under investigation. When the crap hit the fan Mark quickly donated the funds to charity.

The moral of the story is: If you are running for office, unless you are as pure as a newborn baby, chances are, someone will find your third grade teacher and discover you once cheated on a spelling test, after which you will be hunted down and harpooned like a humpback whale. Keep it clean people.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Can't Find the "Fun" in Fundraising

If I tried to support myself by selling Amway, I would die of starvation - and I don't feel like that's a bad thing.

It's that time of year again, when my kids' school does their big fundraiser. Where the students and parents are encouraged to hit up their friends, neighbors, and family for money in exchange for overpriced crap in the name of education. All I can say is, I'm glad my family lives far away, my neighbors already hate us for being the noisiest house on the block, and I don't have any local friends - because I am terrible at sales!

I absolutely loath begging people for money, which is basically what fundraising is because in all honesty, who pays $11 for a roll of wrapping paper, $15 for a tub of cookie dough, or $20 for a set of coasters printed with whimiscal cats? I hate putting people in the awkward position of really wanting to say no but having coming up with a polite way to do so. So what I end up doing is paying for all the junk myself and giving it away as Christmas presents. Better to be a tacky gift-giver than an annoying panhandler.

I remember one of Ambie's teenage daughters was given the task of pre-selling rubber wristbands in her school colors. She asked if I would buy one and when I said "no thanks" she flopped on my couch and every 10 minutes or so, would ask me again. "Raaaaaayyyy", I'd hear in a low hissing voice I imagine Satan would have, "buy a bracelet from me. Raaaaaayyy." I ended up buying two just to get her off the couch. With my money safely in her pocket she then commenced telling me how she's the number one seller in her class. Effective. I just can't do that.

My problem is I now have 3 school kids and the amount of selling we have to do has gone up and I just don't need that many cat coasters. What to do? Risk the few acquaintances I do have to push sales? Pay to ship useless stuff my family doesn't need but who are willing to support us? Fork over more of my own money (like paying 5 digit tuition isn't enough)? Or shall I just drop the fundraising ball altogether and hope it doesn't reflect in my childrens' transcripts?

No wonder I never made it as a Girl Scout.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Who's Nose is ThAT ?

We were blessed with a beautiful new baby girl this past week who looks nothing like anyone else in the family. All the rest had hair whereas this little peanut has none, but more surprisingly the nose this child was born with could not have come from me or Alex. We are looking into the family history for anyone French or Jewish. All kidding aside she is beautiful and we are so blessed.. seriously.
there is no

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

The Low-Energy Child

I have a son who has left a trail of teachers rethinking their career choices in his wake. He has the energy of an atom-bomb, the volume of a rock concert, the curiosity of a dozen cats, and the impulsiveness of a college student with his first credit card. I've come out of many a parent-teacher conference feeling apologetic, sympathetic, frustrated, and sometimes homicidal all at the same time. It's been a rockin' roller coaster ride, to say the least.

I have a daughter who is a school teacher's dream. She's quiet and compliant, but not reticent or shy. She raises her hand often but never speaks out of turn. She does her work neatly, carefully, and follows all the rules. At her parent-teacher conferences, I hear nothing but glowing praise and compliments for my daughter, me and my husband, our parenting, our intelligence, and on and on.

and this is my cry for help because I am at my wits end struggling with...

my daughter!

I recently instated a "chore chart" in our house. It's a pretty standard thing with chores such as washing the dishes, washing the car, cooking the rice, cleaning the bathroom, taking out the trash, etc. Instead of rotating the chores weekly or even monthly, we're going quarterly to minimize the confusion, let the kids develope some expertise, and so no one accuses anyone else of doing a sloppy job making it harder for the next person.

When it's chore time, my son eagerly jumps to his tasks and gets them done. Sometimes he needs to be reminded to do things thoroughly and sometimes he makes another mess in the process, but he takes the corrections good naturedly and does everything he's asked in a timely manner.

My daughter on the other hand, no matter what she was previously doing, when asked to do her chores she dramatically falls to the floor declaring that she's tired. What follows is an hour or two of whining, crying, and rolling around on the floor. She eventually does get her tasks done but only if I watch her closely and repeat directions over and over (and invariably louder and louder). It's serious drama and it's driving me CRAZY!

I've tried one passive-aggressive way to motivate her to get things done in a decent amount of time. I've designated 4:30p - 5:00p as family trampoline time, but only those who have their homework and chores done can jump. The kids love it when I jump with them and we play a lot of games or put the sprinkler underneath. Well, my daughter didn't make the deadline and got left out once - and the crying, pouting and declaring that we were all mean was worse than ever. And she still didn't get her chores and homework done.

Anyone have any good ideas about how to motivate a reluctant, low-energy child? Otherwise I'm investing in a defibrillator.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

The End is Nigh...maybe

Forget the four horsemen of the apocalypse. The end of the world may actually be ushered in by four nerds in labcoats. On Wednesday, scientists will fire up the world's largest and most powerful atom smasher which some believe may create tiny black holes that will engulf the entire planet. I hope that was listed among the "occupational hazards" in the contracts of the 3,000 people employed at the site. Something along the lines of, "You may be exposed to loud noises, frequent references to Star Trek, and gravitational forces strong enough to reduce you and the entire planet to the size of a subatomic particle."

The end of the world isn't the only cost of the operation. The "Large Hadron Collider", the cavernous machine that will be doing the atom smashing, includes a large circular tunnel over sixteen miles around and cost over 2 billion dollars to construct. It basically takes a stream of protons and accelerates them around the tunnel in one direction, then accelerates another stream in the opposite direction hoping that some of the protons will collide - then they see what "pieces" go flying out. It's kind of like trying to find out how a car works by driving two of them headlong into each other at high speeds, then studying the wreckage.

It's no wonder I found my quantum physiscs class in college a little - weird. It wasn't just about learning the differences between quarks, leptons, bosons, muons, and pions. But these subatomic particles also have "flavors" which are designated as up, down, strange, charm, top, and bottom. Is drug use high amongst particle physicists?

In any case, since the world may come to an end tomorrow, you might want to think about what you want to do today. Will you tell your family you love them? Resolve your differences with an enemy? Climb the mountain or take the bungee jump of your dreams? Finally get the guts to tell your neighbor that her lawn ornaments are tacky and your children really did cause the death of her missing cat? Whatever you do, do it fast because there are less than 24 hours before the release of the protons of doom. See you on the other side...

Friday, September 5, 2008

...and then there were ten

When God told Adam and Eve to "multiply and replenish the earth", Alex and Ambie took it seriously. I think they have mixed in the term "exponentially" to the "multiply". So congratulations, my dear friend, on the birth of your seventh daughter (ten children in all)! I'm sure she'll fit right in in no time.

You know what this means, Ambie? You will never be free of those panting, glassy-eyed teenage boys trying to break down the door and scale the walls of your house. They're like a pack of hungry zombies except what they're looking for is not "brains" (it starts with a "B", though).

there is no
the end

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

An Exile's Election

Have you ever ordered something from a catalog, or a TV offer, or even ebay? Unless you've walked in my and Ambie's shoes you've probably never noticed the horrible little words at the bottom of the page following an asterisk. "available only in the 48 contiguous states" or "not applicable in Alaska or Hawaii" How does that make us feel? Kind of like going to a birthday party when you're five years old and the mom is handing out cupcakes until she gets to you and she says, "sorry, this doesn't apply to you." We're invited to the party, but we can't have the treats.

While away from my home in Alaska, I needed to get a pair of replacement contacts. Since I got them from Costco, I figured it would be easy to order even away from home. I told the young lady at the counter I needed my prescription from Alaska so she pulled out the list of all Costcos and started looking down the column of international stores. No kidding.

"Um, Alaska is one of the 50 states", I said.

"Oh really?" She flipped the list over to the domestic side and when she found it (the second one on the alphabetical list) she said, "Whaddaya know!"

I've lived in both Alaska and Hawaii and so has Ambie. We know what it's like to be "an exile among friends". We feel like we were added just to make it a nice round 50, but we have to stay in the basement when the guests arrive. Never mind that we supply everyone else with oil, natural gas, gold, pineapples, sugar, and really cool places to vacation. Trying to point these things out just makes our case more pathetic, though.

You never hear people from California say, "Hi, I'm from California, you know, where 38% of the nation's oranges come from, where Gary Coleman is from, and where they discovered gold in the 1800s". You only hear stuff like that from states' residents who feel it necessary to "put their home state on the map". You'll hear people from Nebraska proudly say that it is the birthplace of former President Gerald Ford, Malcolm X, and Marge Helgenberger from CSI.

So here we have an election where, no matter who wins, we have a person in charge who represents the "forgotten states". And either one will make history - we never do anything "normally" out here on the fringes.

You know you're from a small state when the news is filled with the notoriety of fellow and/or former residents where ever they are. You'll see articles in the paper about "Hawaii's own" so-and-so "who made it to round 3 in 'Who Wants to Be a Millionaire'" or "landed the lead role in Florida County Community Theater's version of 'Christmas in the Land of Oz'". So you can imagine the Obama-fest that has been raging here on the islands since his ascendency on the national stage. I drive past his alma mater twice a day (in Hawaii, it's all about where you graduated from highschool). So although he has never said, "da kine" in a speech, worn an aloha shirt on the campaign trail, lauded the virtues of poi, or given a "shaka" out to his supporters, it's all love all the time around here.

Now, Ambie reports that within hours of the Republican VP announcement, there were McCain/Palin T-shirts for sale at the State Fair and everyone was wearing one by the end of the day. Alaska has been a hot topic on the political/environmental front for a while but no one actually from Alaska has ever risen to the forefront because of it until now. (okay, there was Ted Stevens, but he's hardly a household name.) There's finally someone of national note that uses the term "hockey mom" as opposed to "soccer mom". In Alaska, soccer is just a game you play when there's no ice (that's about 45 days) to keep in shape for hockey.

So forget that he's a black, male Democrat and she's a white, woman Republican, because they have a lot in common. They're both relative newcomers to the national stage, they're both running with an old white guy with experience, they'll both be a "first" if elected, and most importantly, they both know what it's like to live under an oppressive and exclusionary catalog ordering regime.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Shackin' Up with my Husband

"Honey, I'm home!"

I have some really awesome news to share. My husband and I have finally reached that point in our relationship and decided to move in together!!! Yes, you read that right - my husband and I. We just celebrated our 13th wedding anniversary but have been living apart for the better part of the last year and a half. For five months, the kids and I lived in Omaha while he was in Southern California. For three blissful months of constant beach-going, surfing, snorkeling and boogie-boarding, we all lived together on Maui. But for the past year, the kids and I lived on Oahu while my husband stayed on Maui. Now, after a long and crazy, and I do mean crazy, time, my husband has finally joined us on Oahu. It is so good to be a complete family again.

I don't know how single mothers do it.

It really seems like parenting was made for two people, and not just for using the ol' good cop/bad cop thing. There has to be someone there, when things get tough, to say, "It's okay, kids. She's not really going to tear your limbs off. But just in case, maybe you should go clean up your room" and then hide the axe and guard the knife drawer.

there is no


Tuesday, August 26, 2008

First day of ....Stool?

Morning in Kailua

My kids' first day of school dawned beautifully. A warm gentle breeze in the palm trees, myna birds and cardinals filling the air with warbling, the earthy and organic smell of ....sewage? What I mistook for my neighbor's dog having a poop fest in my yard again was actually my new Kindergartener having an accident in his bed overnight. And I'm not talking about a simple case of bedwetting. Call it a case of nerves.

I had envisioned heralding in the new school year by waking up early, cooking a hot breakfast of eggs, spam, and rice, dressing up the kids, and taking a plethora of pictures to commemorate this annual rite of passage. But what I actually did was re-bathe my distressed 5 year old, scrub the carpet, a mattress and a trail leading up to the kids' bathroom toilet. The kids' had cold cereal and I snapped one picture while contradictively yelling at them to hurry and get in the car. So much for heralding.

We resumed the twice daily journey through carnivorous Honolulu traffic. When we got to school I had just enough time to walk each child to his or her class, meet each teacher and refrain from saying, "good luck, sucker!" to my oldest son's teacher with a wicked cackle.

I know I should be weepy and forlorn as I send my precious little ones into the care of complete strangers for the majority of their waking hours - but all I could do as I drove away was heave a sigh of gratitude for the peace and quiet of a minivan carrying just one child. It is one of life's great ironies that you don't appreciate the simplicity of having just one child until you've had four.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

A Mother's Olympic Dream

Watching the mother of Michael Phelps never gets old. I'm amazed at how she shows so much emotion even after he's won so many medals. Every parent, whether or not they will admit it, wants this for their children ,the ultimate success... yes even I who relishes mediocrity so, desire to see my children achieve so great an honor.

Probably the two greatest Olympic sports must be synchronized swimming and trampoline gymnastics.. and oh yeah the one where the girls twirl ribbons ( does anyone know if there is a men's division in any of these)? Sometimes as I watch my daughters dance around the living room I think to myself "wow ! That move looks like something right out of the best ribbon twirling routine"! I can tell my children have so much promise. When Olivia does a handstand at the pool I swear I get the chills and when I see Alexa jump on the trampoline so gracefully, I know it's meant to be.

Sadly for Victor there is not much hope as the only other sports are regular swimming ( boring !) and like running and jumping over these wall things that just seem to tip over so easily (lame-o). There should be mens twirling because gymnastics with ribbons is so much prettier and the athletes just seem to work harder and are so much more popular.

All of my kids have the potential to win gold and I will be that mom, in the stands weeping with joy as I watch each child straining as they point their toes in the water and win the gold.

there is no

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Confessions of a Carny

I thought that since Ray was doing the right thing by confessing her cussing ways, ( the woman swears like a drunken sailor) I would stay with the theme and reveal to all you classy readers that I am in fact nothing more than a carnival worker. It's true... well sort of. I don't operate greasy rides and spit tobacco juice, but rather Alex and I tease hair into mohawks, spikes, and various other shapes and paint them wild colors. This is our talent. Some are engineers and some are lawyers or builders, we build hair. Alex can make hair into an island with a palm tree, or a ladybug, or a unicorn, or a television set, and I paint the hair with spray paint made for hair.We sweat and toil in working conditions that include hours upon hours of techno music that could turn anyone's brain into liquid, and mobs of kids and sweaty teenagers. We love it. If anyone lands in Alaska around August 20th, the mohawks on us.

there is no


Monday, August 18, 2008

God's Way of Telling Me to "Shut It!"

I don't cuss. I thinks it's unbecoming especially for a woman to cuss. I also think that most cussing is just the result of not being bright enough to think of a more clever way to say things. That being said, I unapologetically use all the words that are in the Bible. Hey, if God uses them, surely it's okay if we use them. Practice what you preach, and all.

A couple summers ago I had an experience not unlike Zacharias, the father of John the Baptist. I was at Girls' Camp (as a leader, I said "a couple" of summers ago, not "many, many" summers ago) and I happened to make use of one of my more favorite words from the Bible. And I immediately lost my voice. I didn't have a cough, a sore throat, a fever, or anything - I had literally been struck dumb. I didn't fully recover my voice for about 3 months.

For a year or two after that experience I struggled with keeping my voice around. It was such a skittish thing, like a commitment-averse boyfriend - coming and going with no rhyme or reason. I even went to an ENT who happily removed my tonsils which improved things for a month. Finally, for the past year or so, I reached a point where I knew if my children misbehaved I could reliably bellow at them as needed.

Until now.

The voice is gone again. Maybe it's time to bleep my Biblical babble. Damn!

there is no
nope, no more I say.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

China Gives World Inferiority Complex

After watching the Chinese women kick our rear ends in Gymnastics immediately following the beat down our mens team got the night before, I am starting to well... feel a little insecure. There teams seem so together, so flawless, so determined, and the Americans seem a little more unpredictable and almost dysfunctional.It's really been making me squirm in my cozy recliner. Gee I bet those two U.S. teams felt a little sad. It's a good thing they have such a great support system. I bet their coaches consoled them and their hometowns will welcome them home like heroes. I bet the American athletes that messed up the worst won't even be thrown in jail. I think it's great that even they will get a pat on the back and a "better luck next time". They probably won't even be disowned by their families, and it's doubtful that they will even consider suicide as a way to restore honor to their countries and families after the huge failure of winning only silver or bronze.

I suppose that even after the dust settles we Americans will still view these athletes as human beings worthy of praise, love, and appreciation for their sacrifices, and after seeing the relief on the Chinese mens gymnastics coach's face , it might be a good thing that they won because who knows what the rest of his life might have been like.

there is no


Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Funny Blogs vs. Venting Blogs vs. Mommy Blogs ...

Ray and I have done months of research on this topic and have discovered some key differences between the different types of blogs out there, namely content and who is commenting. Here is a list of helpful information when navigating the wonderful world of blogs. We like lists, they spare us the humiliation of grammatical errors.

Angry Venting blogs- for some odd reason usually go hand in hand with politics, although some are used to publicly humiliate lazy friends or by religious fanatics all equally linked to Satan and possibly Wal Mart(according to our sources in Arkansas).The folks who comment on these blogs are usually full of testosterone and ready for a battle. In the old days these same types of people could be found in angry mobs wielding torches.

Mommy Blogs- used mostly by those who wish to keep in contact with friends and loved ones far away but also used by some who need constant reassurance that their children are good looking, talented, and academically above average. The lovely people commenting on these blogs I like to call the support team, they are quick to respond to new pictures with oohs and ahhs and an encouraging comment such as " wow Johnny sure is a genius" !

Funny Blogs - So far we have found that they are elusive not unlike Big Foot and we have only found a couple worthy of our time. Some are crude and some are side splitting depending on what ones flavor of humor is. The comments found on these are usually done in the spirit of adding to the joke. Strangers commenting to each other on a funny post always seem to lead to more laughs which according to recent studies leads to a longer life and almost instantaneous weight loss. ( Okay that last part was a lie) but I swear it makes me feel better about being fat.

Any Comments?

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The Most Valued Flab in the World

One of my daughters has always been a little obsessed with boobs. When she was a toddler she was always poking at them (mine) and as soon as she learned to talk would walk around chanting "Boob! Boob! Boob!" as she was learning to write we would frequently find the word "boob" written in the dirt on the car. The same daughter later vowed she would name her first child boob in honor of those two friends who had always brought her comfort and once food.

I am no fan of boobs. They're in the way (for some of us) and move around when they shouldn't. I often wonder why some women want them so badly. Do they understand that these are just adding their overall body fat? Do they know what will happen to them in 20 years? In 40? Before a woman decides to have hers inflated, I would suggest going for a run and feel the beauty of nothing jumping and just remember bouncing later turns to flapping.

I have a dear friend who always wanted more than she was naturally given. So in desperation she finally turned to the “water bra” a safer alternative to surgical breast enhancement. She swears this is the way to go for that added size. I say why add the weight? Extra weight in that general area only adds additional stress on the back.

Tsk tsk all for the sake of vanity.
there is no


Monday, August 11, 2008

Safe Delusion

Lesson 2 in Parenting 101 (see also Lesson 1) is that you must spend thousands of dollars on equipment to keep your child safe. If you don't people will glare at you and seriously consider calling Child Protective Services because your children are obviously "at risk". So get out your credit cards or take out a hefty loan because keeping your little one safe will require at the minimum:

a carseat (actually a couple of carseats, one to face backward under 20 lbs, one to face backward over 20 lbs, one to face forward up to 60 lbs, and a booster seat for up to either age 8, 80 lbs, or 4 foot 8 in. Got that?), a gate for the stairs, locks for the cabinets and drawers, helmets in several styles and sizes, plugs for all the outlets, a life vest or better yet a swim suit with floatation devices built in, a temperature regulator for the bath and a soft faucet guard, a net to go around the trampoline and a fence to go around the pool, a lock for the fridge, a rail for the bed, and well, you may as well bubble wrap the whole house because there's bound to be something potentially pokey, aka dangerous, in there.

Safety is great, right? Think safety first. Nothing more important than safety. The problem? Children aren't learning how to be safe because they are prevented from encountering anything remotely dangerous.

No, I'm not saying chuck all the stuff on the "neurotic saftey parent" list. Carseats are required by law, but the age and size of child that needs one keeps going up. As the laws are right now, my husband would have been driving himself to school in a booster seat. Gone are the days of my mother who used to drive and nurse a baby at the same time.

But a lot of the equipment actually hinders a child's ability to detect, gauge, and avoid danger. Like my sister who very responsibly kept gates at the top and bottom of her stairs whose children could not navigate them until almost age 2. I've never used stair gates and my babies learn to descend feet first on their tummies before they can walk.

I thought we were being so safety conscious by choosing a house on a traffic free cul-de-sac, until my son bolted down my friend's driveway on his bike into a street full of cars without looking. We also have a net around our trampoline and our children safely bounce into it with nary a broken bone or spinal cord injury - until they happen upon a trampoline without a net and they have no concept of staying on the darn thing.

Even less humorous is the mom who always put a life vest on her 3-year-old when she was in the pool. I mean always. The child hardly touched the water without it on and most doctors and childcare experts would applaud her devotion to safety. But her daughter had to go to the bathroom mid-swim and forgot to put the vest back on and the result was tragic. Because of the life vest, she had no fear or sense of caution around the water. The life vest also gave the mom a false sense of security making her attentiveness lax. So in the end, did it really keep her safe?

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Delivery Room Etiquette

I love my sister but do I have to watch the baby be born? The honest truth is I kind of just wanted to see the sweet little new baby and not my sister in horrible pain. Honestly I don't want bleachers set up at my upcoming delivery either. So what's the protocol here? Who should be allowed and who's feelings are going to end up hurt? How did so many people get invited to this party anyway? It reminded me of high school when you invite 3 people over and they invite more people and the next thing you know you were trying to break up a gang war in your driveway.

So there we were lining the halls at my sisters delivery waiting for the pushing to be over so we could all flood in like something resembling the running of the bulls. Poor Jessica, I wondered if she was annoyed but soon realized that she was in too much pain to care about the family reunion taking place around her bed.

To avoid this kind of chaos, there must be some sort of guide as to what is appropriate at a delivery both in attendance and conduct of those invited to be present at the birth of my next child.

1. If you haven't seen IT in my adult life, neither will you see IT now. Use your imagination.

2. This is not a spectator sport. if you enjoy watching pain and suffering take a plane ride with Ray and her kids.

3. There must be no laughing, gasping, smiling, eating, giggling, moving, touching, shifting, or breathing in the room for the duration of the labor. So unless you are a statue, good luck.

4. There is a reason why it's called labor, labor = work, so unless I have ever invited you to watch me attempt an excruciating workout in the nude, count yourself out.

5.It's my party and I'll cry if I want to.... or yell.. or scream.

6. Please do not bring your children. The only children that will be allowed in the delivery room are my own which by the way you will be attending to.

7. No electronic devices will be allowed on the premises without my prior consent including: ipods, cell phones, video cameras, cameras, video games, laptops etc.

8. Flowers, gifts, remarking on the babies exceptional beauty, and foot massages are always welcome.

there is no more...

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

My Personal Inferno

What you think hell is:
You're returning from a Hawaiian vacation tired, sunburned, and possibly hungover and now you're stuck on an airplane full of crying babies and toddlers kicking your seat and toys being thrown at you for 7 unending hours.

What hell actually is:
You're flying to the mainland for a vacation and you're stuck on an airplane full of tired, sunburned and hungover tourists and you have the ONLY crying baby or tantrum-throwing toddler. And everyone stares at you with their weary, blood-shot eyes like you're either the worst parent ever or the devil incarnate. And your normally docile and contented child simply will not settle down despite your 30 lb backpack full of toys, snacks, books, and candy.

If you can't tell, I'm more than a little nervous about flying with my little bundle of fury. I am truly sympathetic to all those that have to sit around me because I know first hand (and ear) how annoying the sound of a crying, whining child is. But all those profane death threats and slander on the marital status of my parents are really unhelpful to the situation at hand.

I am making a promise right now that whatever stage of life I'm in, if I hear a child throwing a doozie of a tantrum in public, the parent(s) will get nothing from me but sympathy, patience and support. Now excuse me while I pack a full Thomas train set and a six-pack of tictacs.


Thursday, July 24, 2008

Name Shame

I've always felt sorry for children that have to live with the ridiculous names their parents gave them. For a while the oh-so-cute trend was to give your child a traditional name with a "creative" spelling, like my poor niece, Sydni. Then the isn't-that-sweet bandwagon was to smash together two common names creating a new hideous mutant lifeform, like Jennica, Janessa or Ambriah. Now the just-so-darling trend is to combine common syllables in "creative" ways. So take normal syllables like, tay, jay, kai, kee, mor, bree, or cam and attach it to lin, ler, non, gan, ly, or dan.

I thought the US had to be leading the world in the dumb names race. But we're not. Not by a long shot.

A New Zealand judge ordered the name of a girl in the middle of a custody battle to be changed and she would remain a ward of the court until the change was official. The offending monicker?

Talula Does The Hula From Hawaii

Oh dear.

Some other names that have been blocked are Fish and Chips, Yeah Detroit, Stallion, Twisty Poi, Keenan Got Lucy, and Sex Fruit. But unfortunately, these are still legal and belong to actual human beings, Number 16 Bus Shelter, Midnight Chardonnay, and Violence. I'll never again lament my son's preschool class roll of Morgan, Keegan, Taylin, Taylor, Jayden, Kylin, Kaylee, and Camden.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Let's Party, Hawaiian Style!

There are things that I love, really love, hate, and really hate about living in Hawaii. This one falls under the "really love" category. I absolutely love Hawaiian style graduation parties. Now, when I graduated from highschool, the only real difference I noticed was my dad added, "and pay your tuition on time" to his constant mantra of, "anything less than an A is unacceptable". When I graduated from college, I threw myself a party with hamburgers, chips, and two-liters of rootbeer and I received an alarm clock and a picture frame as gifts. I thought this was pretty standard.

Not in Hawaii.

A grad party in Hawaii requires several pick-up truck loads of food with no less than five meat-related main dishes, at least three salads containing macaroni and absolutely NO grass skirt trimming around the tables or cylindrically symmetric, tissue paper pineapple center pieces.

Families honestly spend thousands and thousands of dollars on these parties and wouldn't dream of combining, say, all the kids from one highschool or two best friends' parties. Each party is fully decked out in towering floral and balloon arrangements, center pieces that are actually large party favors containing items reflecting the interests of the grad, live bands with plenty of ukuleles, and enough food to sustain a small, third-world country for a month.

All of June and July is grad party season and I haven't cooked on a Saturday night in a long time. Last weekend we went to the party of a grad we didn't even know, but his aunties invited us so we happily went. We walked in and the happy grad kissed me on the cheek and slapped my husband on the back and it was party time. The family of the grad spends the evening, cooking, serving, cleaning, laughing loudly, asking everyone if they've gotten enough to eat, and pressing more food on them regardless of the answer.

I'm afraid I've been ruined forever. Croissant sandwiches, nut cups and chalky mints wrapped in netting will never satisfy me now.

Monday, July 21, 2008

"Like Oh my Gosh Your baby is like so cute "!

This Saturday I took my 15 year old to Plato's Closet to pick out an outfit to wear to a wholesome, good clean, no touching, church dance and I kid you not there was no less than 3 teenage pregnant girls and at least that many dragging a kid or kids around with them pawing through racks of short skirts and tube tops looking for something totally hot to wear while their kids tugged on their designer jeans and cried for candy, "yeah whatever just be quiet here's a sucker". You may wonder where I have been the last 20 or so years that would create so much astonishment in my little sheltered mind, the answer to this question is : at home teaching my daughters not to do well.. that, praying, and sweating like a pig in heat. oops don't say in heat at least not at my house. Ok I never saw Juno. I know what it is. I don't give a crap what the positive message is at the end. Cool teen gets knocked up. I don't need to know anything else. My teens begged me to see it which caused alarms to go off like crazy, which eventually eased into a dull painful suspicion, which was only eased after the teens all admitted that they really didn't want to see that movie anyway it's like so old already anyways. Any proven preventative measures? Please share. My bowels are in constant distress.

there is no


Monday, July 14, 2008

Teacher, I Have a Question.

I have an honest question for those of you with interests in public school whether it be as a teacher or current, potential, or past parent of elementary school children. There's a lot of verbage flying around about the "infamous" No Child Left Behind Act and most of it is negative. As I understand it, the NCLB Act basically makes schools accountable for the performance of their students on standardized tests and those that underperform or don't show "adequate yearly progress" are in jeapardy of losing their funding.

Most of the criticism I've heard from teachers is that the year becomes so test focused that there is little time or budget left to do anything else. They say that PE, Music and Art classes, and even field trips are being eliminated to prepare for the tests.

So my question is, what is classroom time being spent on that is so important but doesn't help students pass a test of the most basic of academic skills?

My elementary school, and beyond, experiences of standardized testing are essentially the-relaxing-week-where-we-take-a-ridiculously-easy-test. There are bubble sheets and test booklets and the teacher brings a novel to read while we work the day away. No, I'm not some kind of genius child, nor did I go to a magnet school or prep school (not until my senior year, anyway). Everyone thought it was easy. I honestly remember a question on a third grade test where we had to identify "which one is a picture of a dog who is angry?"

So where is the problem? If schools can't provide a way for students to learn these fundamental skills, why is our hard earned money going to pay for them?

As I hear people shout that NCLB is unfair, ineffective, or unnecessary, it sounds like people demanding their right to be remedial. "Don't MAKE us do well in school! Just call what we're doing GOOD!" I don't know of any other industry where the management, employees and customers alike seek all sorts of excuses for why business is bad and fight against attempts to make it better.

I saw the most pathetic thing on a "news mag" show where a highschool boy struggled to read. (that's not the pathetic part) There was a meeting with his teachers, some school administrators and his mother and they "discussed" his needs. Afterward his mother expressed her frustration that for all these meetings, her son still struggled to read. So the news mag sponsored him to go to The Sylvan Learning Center for a month after which he jumped 3 grade levels in his reading skills. For all those "action meetings" someone just needed to sit down and TEACH THE BOY TO READ! (that's the pathetic part - the school, the teachers, the parent, no one could figure out how to teach a student to read)

My humble opinion - that school needs to lose it's funding and the students given the opportunity to attend a school that actually teaches. What a waste.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Big Chief Red Face

If you ever take a Parenting 101 class, you will learn that you are a complete loser and a failure as a parent unless you are "involved". What that exactly means in the practical world can range from coaching your child's soccer team, to volunteering in your child's classroom, to arranging your child's marriage. I am intrigued/bemused/horrified by all the different forms and levels of "involvement" parents choose to have in their children's lives and the effect it has on them (the children and the parents). Trying to adjust my own "parental footprint" is like holding an egg - squeeze too hard and it cracks, hold too loosely and it falls and breaks.

Now I realize that I certainly don't have all the answers nor do I think that I'm doing everything right - but I do know when someone's gone over the edge. Such is the case with the mother of my son's Kindergarten classmate. A woman I call Big Chief Red Face.

The first time I met BCRF was on the first day of Kindergarten. The students already had their first assignment ready to turn in which was a paper flower they were supposed to put their picture on and decorate. Most of the flowers clutched in these 5-year-old's hands had colorful scrawls of marker or crayon and a few had glitter or feathers glued in place. BCRF was holding her daughter's creation held flat on her upward-turned palm like a waiter. It was a mosaic in colored rice that looked like it was patterned after a Tibetan monastery floor. When BCRF jr. tried to grab her flower to show her friend BCRF held it up out of reach saying, "no no no no no no".

Trying to be a good "involved" parent, I signed up to volunteer in the classroom about once a month. Every time I went into the classroom, whether it was to volunteer, ask the teacher something or run a paper or lunch into the classroom, BCRF was there. I went in at random enough times to say that I think she was there every day of the school year! She watched her daughter like a hawk and intervened any time she thought her daughter needed correcting, scolding, protection, direction, anything. I saw her yank her daughter out of the classroom for lectures and even timeouts.

I may not be a child development expert or even a parenting expert, but I think it's safe to say that BCRF jr. will either grow up to resent and rebel against her mother or grow up spineless and incapable, looking to her mother to do everything and choose everything for her.

There are mothers in my life that I look up to and try to pattern my own parenting principles on. Mothers that look to guide rather than control, that work with, not against their children, the ones that teach principles, not just rules. But most of all, the mothers that have found serenity in their choatic lives - that have a peaceful and centered balance about them.

And y'know what? Big Chief Red Face ain't one of them!