Sunday, December 30, 2012

Out With The Old & In With The New

For any folks who are wondering about the little cottage...

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Everything Old is New Again: Leaving The County for The Country

I am sitting here, thinking I should be saying something holiday-ish.  Right now, December is feeling very slow and long.  I know that not everyone feels this way (especially not the people in the mall parking lot), but I am ready to have Christmas.  I'm tired of waiting.

We travel away from our home every Christmas.  We leave a nice housesitter to enjoy our decorations and our home, and we rush away towards Christmas Part 2.  This year, Christmas, The Sequel, is taking place at the cottage in Canada.

Sequel?  Yes.  We've decorated and celebrated and partied and Nut Crackered.  We've already eaten too much, drank too much and surpassed our set budget for holiday spending.  The bags are mostly packed, the presents mostly bought and there is only danger in shopping from here.

More importantly, when we go to the cottage, it is a lot like Country Mouse and City Mouse.

Let me explain.  We live in Marin County.  Sometimes it is referred to as "the bubble" in the Bay Area.  Everything is clean, green and manicured--both lawns and men and ladies.  Oh, and dogs and little toddler girls, too!  Vegetables are freshly picked and prepared at local restaurants.  Northern California wine flows like water.  Gournet grocery stores beckon you from every corner.  A fresh, open air farmer's market can be found daily.

Then we separate from our reality and get on an airplane to experience another reality.  We will arrive to a hopefully snowy, deep freeze of a landscape and then it is time to decorate and bake and re create Christmas for the second time in December.  I'm looking forward to it, but on the Wednesday before we travel, frankly, it sounds like a lot of work.  All of our Christmas is in about 6 suitcases and duffel bags.  Not all of it, we have plenty of decorations  awaiting us in the country.

I have travel anxiety.  Like I've said before, I'm not afraid my plane will crash or anything, I just am not very good at transitions.  Once we make it to the airport, check our bags, get through security, get on the plane, realize we are all in middle seats scattered throughout the plane, get delayed, frantically race to our next connection, arrive and our bags do not, get the rental car and begin our coutry road trip and drive two hours away from civilization, I will be fine and feeling on top of things.

City Mouse:
Oops, forgot the organic, locally sourced buttermilk.  Grab the keys and hit the corner market.  Back home in 5 minutes.

Country Mouse:
Uh oh, forgot the organic buttermilk, look in the Betty Crocker cooking bible for a substition that includes cider vinager that's been in the cupboard for 10 years.

City Mouse:
Oops, running out of underwear.  Look in clothes basket.

Country Mouse:
Uh oh, only got one bag at the airport, my underwear is not in that one bag.  Wash the underwear I'm wearing every night until my bag is dropped off at the local combination post office, fishing license, putt putt golf and grocery store a half an hour away.

City Mouse:
Oops, the cable is not working.  Call Comcast.

Country Mouse:
Uh oh, the electricity is out.  Better build a fire, get snow to melt for water and hit the sub zero outhouse.  It could be days until a work crew gets out our way.

City Mouse:
Oops, we are out of Merry Edwards Pinot Noir.  Once again, 5 minutes to the local grocery. Buy it and stick it in the sub zero fridge.

Country Mouse:
Uh oh, we are out of Merry Edwards (not hard to do what you are only allowed to bring in two bottles of wine per adult).  Now we must brave our local LCBO and be at the Canadian Government's mercy. Bottles of wine that we pay $5.00 for in California are $17.99 plus tax.  On a positive note, it does curb the wine consumption--$5 wine is still tasting like $5 wine no matter how much you charge for it.

Whether you be in the city or the country, happy holidays to you!

Monday, December 17, 2012

The Canadian Chronicles: Women's Studies Classes and Pre Christmas Hoopla 2012

This holiday post begins with a little un-related holiday back story.  When I was studying for my undergrad degree at the University of Michigan, I met with my college counselor.  I only met with a counselor once in my whole undergrad history.  He was a basic, old, overweight white guy.  He looked at my transcript and questioned the number of Women's Studies courses that I was taking.

I told him that I intended to double major in Communications and Women's Studies.  There was nothing more interesting to me in all of the classes at Michigan that I was taking as a fired up discussion in one of my Women's Studies classes.  Everyone in the class was super smart, passionate and involved.  I learned all kinds of things.  My horizons were broadening.

He shook his head and stared at my transcript.  He looked up over his reading glasses, his tired eyes met mine and he said, "You definitely should not major in Women's Studies.  Anyone seeing that as your major will assume that you're a lesbian and then they will not hire you."

I left our meeting confused.  What did he mean by people thinking I was a lesbian?  Was that bad?  I went to my next class, Women in Art, and looked around at my awesome classmates.  It's true, there were a lot of comfortable shoes.  I guess I knew a couple of them to be lesbians, but were they all lesbians?  And, so what if they were?  I didn't care.  I just like the class and its content.

In the late 80's, his remarks did give me pause.  I did want to get a job, so even though I took a hefty load of Women's Studies Department classes, I never declared it as my major.  It's amazing how one little comment, can shade your thinking.  I didn't even care if someone did think I was a lesbian, but I did need that post grad job.

Flash forward to a ride in the car with my 14 year old daughter.  We were talking about education and opportunities.  She was questioning why I chose to be a stay at home mom.  I mean, if I was preaching quality education and equating it to choice, why didn't I have some super high powered career?  Why had I failed my own mantra?  How can I even begin to give advice on women's choice?

Well, baby, I made the "mother" of choices.  I was a junior high teacher and a preschool teacher...I believe in education so much that I've been a crusader for the excellent private programs that we sacrifice much financially to send our kids to.  I always thought I would live in a trailer park, and I was fine with that.  I really didn't need much.  I didn't have dreams of wealth and riches.  It's not what I'm about--there's a lot about that here where I live, but that's not my story.

We are making our way to a remote cottage in the woods for Christmas.  It is hours away from actual stores that you could buy presents from.  I am bringing Christmas with me in duffel bags.  As I work on orchestrating what we need for the holiday, I realize I am challenged.  I realize there are people that depend on me.  I realize that I teach every single day in all kinds of different ways.  I love being a stay at home mom.  I am lucky to be doing the job that I chose!

I also totally support the women who work outside of the home.  Sometimes it's a choice, sometimes it is not.  Life is a funny path, and you sometimes end up somewhere you didn't even know you were going.  I consider myself very fortunate to be somewhere that I like being, and if I didn't like it, I would try to be doing something else.

I do believe education can give you choice in your life.  I also want to wish holiday peace to the old white guy if he's still out there.  Mister Counselor, how many things in your life didn't you do because of what somebody said or what you were afraid of someone thinking?  I am going to make it my mission to make sure my kids know, lesbian or not, go for it, don't be afraid.  If they don't want to hire you because of something like that, keep looking!

Now, time to pack more stuff into the duffel bags.  We are off to a Canadian adventure, and I'm going to take you all with me!  Stay tuned!

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Girl's Day 2012--New Holiday Traditions & Old

We had an action packed day of San Francisco fun. We began with an elegant brunch at the Palace. We moved on to our annual Christmas visit with Santa at Macy's.

We saw an excellent production of A Christmas Carol. Then it was to Presidio Social club for a delicious dinner.

This is at least our 5th year of skipping school and taking a little holiday.
Skipping school and writing letters to Santa at Macy's way back when? Kindergarten year, 6 years ago!  2006???
Yet, another mystery year of letter writing.  I am going to have to use my sleuthing to figure this all out!

Again, another year at Macy's, this was our trip last year when Birk was 10.
2012 and thinking about what to put on that list!
At 11, still not too old to write and mail a letter to Santa.  I saw the list, oh  boy!  That's a post in itself.

The girls all grown up!  Celebrating the Christmas spirit in style.

One of the fabulous gingerbread diorama's at the Palace.  This one is a ski hill.

Gingerbread creation of a roof top garden.
Go Giants!
The beautiful, giant tree in the center of the Palace Garden Court.

We had an extra special treat on our girl's day, Nana!

Christmas wishes from us to you!

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Pet Treats: Why My Pet Eats Better Than Most Of You People Out There

Today I was looking for some kind of magical, non-destructible chewing device for Roxy, our 11 month old puppy, in our local pet shop.

Here is how it usually goes:

1.  We buy her a toy stuffed toy, let's say, this week it's a gingerbread boy.
2.  She chews its eyes off in less than 1/2 an hour.
3.  One hour later, she is carrying an arm around, no body to be found.
4.  One and a 1/2 hours later, all that is left is a mound of fluff spread throughout the house.

In hopes that her "puppy phase" would be over soon (you can all stop laughing now, I realize it could go on until she's two or more) I slowed down on the purchase of chew toys.  We have a few ragged soldiers that look like they've seen a couple of tours in her toy box.

The purchase of treats have also slowed down.  She was really getting that going pee outside idea.  I slowed down on the treats and the long walks.

How fast can you say....backfire???

Anyways, I was trying to right my wrongs, so I was looking at the chew bones.  It was like a gourmet deli:  grass fed, free range bison chews; duck feet, all natural, humanely treated (until they chopped off its feet);  organic chicken jerky treats.

I was surrounded by a plethora of natural, organic, free range, whole meat, whole bone, no filler wonderland of treats.

What topped it off?  The store clerk showing me the chews from Nepal.  Yes, even you and I could eat these all natural treats.  In fact, PEOPLE in Nepal do eat these treats all of the time, for food.

Well, if it's good enough for those people in Nepal...

Good grief, Charlie Brown!

Monday, November 26, 2012

Why Moms Do All Of The Work: Cable Men, Hoarders and Helpers

We have always been family on the go.  We race around at breakneck speed, saying yes to one more volunteer opportunity, one more night out with friends, one more little getaway until we find ourselves right smack in the middle of a Do It Yourself Hoarders episode.  

You enter the episode by waking up, tripping on a pile of outgrown clothes and opening your eyes to a room full of junk.  Piles of junk.  Piles and pile and piles of junk.  It is usually in my bedroom, and friends that truly know me, know that if my house is clean, my bedroom is absolutely not.

Why, you may ask?  Because if I have to clean the house, I gather everything form all over the house that is not in its place and dump it in my room for later consideration.  Once the rest of the house is clean, I am way too tired to actually clean my room.  Sometimes, it can be months before some things get considered.  Right now I have a pile of hand me downs and a whole bunch of Christmas gifts just waiting to be shipped out for Christmas.

This Hoarders Episode is more acutely brought to light when the cable guy arrives to fix the modem.  Our modem is in the garage.  I figured, why clean the house if he is going to be in the garage on a Sunday morning?  What happens in the garage, doesn't always stay in the garage.  In fact, that cable guy was in our house right quick parading past the unscooped kitty litter, unwashed dishes, half finished laundry, jumble of shoes...well, you name it and he paraded past it.

I want to say our house doesn't always look like this, but on the weekend, it usually does.  After our family has an extended holiday weekend, it especially looks like this.  

Was my husband ever furious!  He went into his speech about how our kids need to get to work and that we should all have our list of chores and that we absolutely never should have our house looking like this.  He was saying this as I was scrubbing his breakfast pan from the day before.  Remember, honey, you thought it would be nice to make a big breakfast?  Now 24 hours later I am scrubbing eggs off the bottom of a yucky pan, your yucky pan.  I didn't even get any of the eggs!

This unleashed my wonderful husband into the Tasmanian Devil of garage cleaners.  Considering the inside of the house, he banished himself to the garage.  He put all of the kids to work cleaning their rooms (don't look in the closets or under the bed, mind you).  I cleaned my room....I am still cleaning my room on Monday morning...

Husband's idea of cleaning the garage and putting things out for recycling and garbage can be seen below.  He didn't factor in the raccoons.  I can guarantee that I was the only mom outside at 7:40 in her Wonder Woman pajamas cleaning up his cleaning job for 45 minutes.  Not alone making breakfast, doing laundry and cleaning up from breakfast.

Clearly, moms would never have left the garbage in this state.  It would have been quicker to do all of the recycling and garbage today by myself.  AND, I wouldn't have to clean slimy egg shells and other assorted food off the cement!  Moms do all of the work because their "helpers" don't understand the big picture.  The big picture could include raccoons or why you don't pile a bunch of furniture in the area of the garage that you need to get in and out of on a daily basis.  Or hanging your daughter's bike up and parking the car in front of it when she needs to be racing to school early in the morning by bike.

Well, I do love him.  He did try hard.  They all try hard.  Unfortunately, happy Monday to me.  It looks like a  multiple espresso kind of day.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Monday Morning Kitchen Counter Chaos

Monday is an interesting day at our house.  You can always tell what kind of weekend we had by what the house looks like on Monday morning.  Usually, my hiking group drags me up a mountain first thing, so I can ignore it for about 4 more hours, but today, I am home and can't ignore it any longer.  What a perfect time to sit down and write!

Although Roxy, our puppy, is trying to chew through my computer cord and Sara, our portly cat, is keeping a watchful eye on the situation, I am going to explain the Monday chaos scale.

Level 1
If it's been a great weekend, full of friends and activities our house is a level one disaster.

Level 2
If it's been a busy weekend full of commitments and activities, our house is a level two disaster.

Level 3
If we've had a lazy weekend and basically sat around and did nothing our house is a level three disaster.

So, levels one, two and three.  The truth is, they are all the same.  Monday morning is just a brutal wake up call as to how lazy and disorganized we are during all levels of activity.  The only way the house stays clean is if we go on vacation, the cleaning lady comes and cleans it, and then it will remain clean until the minute we get home.  We bring our bags in and tadaaaa, we are right back to Levels 1-3.

I'll bet that:

1.  No one has an outdoor patio umbrella outside their bedroom door in the hallway inside their house.

2.  You don't have a signing stuffed pumpkin Halloween candy holder and a tablecloth in your landing of your stairway.  Not at the bottom or the top, mind you, right in the middle of the up and down, there is a collection of empty storage boxes, just hanging out.

3.  You don't have fluffy stuffing from puppy toys all over your house.  Every room is accounted for at my house, no one is left out.

4.  On the kitchen counter you won't find (at your house):  a pitcher, a barbie, yarn, an empty bottle of ibuprofen, peppermint bark, Elmer's glue, skull head appetizer picks, sunglasses, hiking sleeve, a bottle of soda, picture adhesive dots, car key, sunglasses, hot pizza peppers, one barbie shoe, and all of the other food type of stuff you might expect to find on a kitchen counter.

This is just the kitchen counter, if I move onto the kitchen floor list, things might really get interesting...but, I won't do that to you or myself today.  I am going to drink my tea, read the paper, and think about how next weekend is going to be different, right?

Friday, November 9, 2012

Where's Waldo: Play Along At Home Version

I've always been intrigued by the Where's Waldo book series. I mean, here's a book, mainly full of illustrations, that young and old alike are drawn to. I've been known to pick one up at the dentist office and amuse myself. I'm also reluctant to put them in the donation pile.

I think I'm comforted by the hunting process in Waldo. My whole life is a large scale, play at home version. Well, except red and white striped Waldo can fill in for any verb: car keys, check book, one green polka dot volleyball sock--you name it, the combinations are endless.

Take tonight for instance. I was wearing Wonder Woman Jammie's for my Halloween costume. I could find the blue star-spangled bottoms, but not the top.

I was frantically searching and wondering why I am not a more organized person.

But, like in Waldo, after some concentrated searching, I found the fire engine red shirt--complete with the emblazoned Wonder Woman logo. There's something satisfying about a good, successful hide and seek mission, even when you're 40 something!

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Some Quick Halloween 2012 Thoughts

1. You know it's Halloween when you find yourself shoving gummy organs into shot glasses. We had a super fun Zombie party, and our big kid friends rallied in knock out costumes. The funny part, other than doing shots with livers, brains, hearts, lungs, intestines and even eyeballs, was that I found myself trying to classify the animal organ that our cat continually leaves for us as a gift on our doorstep. I cannot figure out if it's the part she hates, or the part she treasures most. In relation to our gummy candy, it is either the liver or the lungs. Guess I should have paid better attention in Anatomy 101.

2. Birk changed costumes and after thinking she would be Sergeant Frog, Ronald McDonald (though she called it McDonald's guy) then her very own daddy, has settled on a space ranger. Mind you that it's 9:30 on October 30th and all of the costume parts we actually purchased are on the bottom of her floor.

3. Our 9 month old puppy is terrified of our Halloween decorations. She can chew up any dog toy, but show her a skull with one blue eye and she is running the other way.

4. Go Giants! Woohoo! Being raised as an Al Kaline Tiger fan, I thought I'd be torn between the Giants and the Tigers in the World Series. Seems I've turned permanent Giants fan. Sorry, Tigers. Sah-weep!

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Breaking the Law: New Drivers and Order in this Modern World

There are some main rules that parents are trying to bond over at our high school.  The biggest one is the limitations of the graduated license.  In California, once you get your license, you are not permitted to drive around like a limo service.  In other words, you cannot drive your friends around until you have had your license for a full year.

This law appears to be loosely followed and loosely interpreted.  Even going to snopes or calling the DMV will not get you a definitive answer as to what the penalty really is for giving your friend a ride home from cross country practice.  Also, kids that have been pulled over for other offenses, but have a friend in the car while they are still in their probationary period, are not ticketed or even warned about breaking the passenger law.

Some parents, have no problem with breaking this rule.  They figure it's ok, and turn a blind eye, or even admit they do not follow this rule.  Some parents bring out the pitch forks and the torches if they catch their teen giving a ride to a friend or sibling.  Most of my friends are fairly flexible.  They assess the situation, then make a decision based on the circumstances.

I told John, that in the good old United States, we as citizens don't get to choose which laws we think are worthwhile.  Hey, murder one?  Not really a good idea, that's a good law.  Making a U turn where it's marked no U turn, but we are in a hurry, maybe we can skip that law.  I am a law abider--probably to a fault.  I stand in line.  I wait my turn.  I wait to merge and stay in traffic while the speedy drivers get in the other lane, pass me and merge last minute.

John is getting ready to take his exam for his official driver's license.  We are driving around town and practicing.  I am a running dialog of driving advice and so is my husband.  Now all three of us critique whomever is driving and truly are back seat drivers constantly.  This is not really fun, but it is probably part of the process.

John was driving down a four lane city street.  A car made a left hand turn into traffic, and was going to gauge his speed so that he merged in behind John.  I recognized this move.  John did not.  He hit the brakes, came to an abrupt stop, the other driver started to merge in front, but John kept going and had to swerve to avoid a collision.

John was griping up and down about how that was illegal and how could that guy just drive like that.  I had to explain that all drivers pretty much drive like that.  He almost quoted me the page number in the DMV guide that would put that driver in jail.

So, once again, here is a law that no one follows.  No one thinks it's a big deal to break it.  We all do it. We probably wouldn't even get a ticket for it.  How do you explain a world like this to a teenager?  How do you explain it to yourself?  How many of us who have been driving for a gazillion years even know what the current laws of driving really are?

It's kind of interesting and makes me wonder about our laws, written and unwritten.  It also makes me wonder about the whole other set of laws that seem to apply to some people, and not at all to others.  Wow, what a thing to think about.  Welcome to the world.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Remodel Done, Halloween Decorating and Party Planning After the Remodel

Last year we threw a Halloween party where guests actually had to enter our house ducking past construction tape.

Now that we are all landscaped, painted and the furniture is back in the house, I am having a hard time getting the Halloween decorations in gear.

Obstacle #1:  My lovely contractor put all of my decorations up on a very high shelf.  He promised me that I would be able to get them down.  My husband took one look at the location of my decorations, and he promptly required a ladder to assist me...but the ladder is at the ark.  Hmmmmm, so, no decorations.   I may be calling the contractor and having him come over to help me decorate, and I'm not kidding about that.

Obstacle #2:  Fatigue.  I just returned from two very nice trips to Canada with my husband.  Every time I am stuck on a plane, I feel like Super Woman.  I make lists, read Martha Stewert and plan like crazy.  Every time I drive carpool, I realize how easy it is to pretend to be Super Woman when I am sitting with my butt strapped to an airplane seat.

When I am sitting with my butt strapped in a car seat while I drive around in circles, I am not feeling like Martha Stewert. Rachel Ray or Oprah for that matter.  I feel just plane/plain tired.  I feel like I look and act like one of my Zombie decorations--circles under the eyes and not able to put a sentence together.  Bleck.

Obstacle #3:  Halloween is on a Wednesday.  I don't want to compete with the uber parties that fall on that Saturday before, yet, October 19th or 20th seems a little too soon to put on the Zombie make up and have a full on rager.  Actually, I can't handle a full on rager, I just finished a remodel.  Now I need a creepy, subdued rager.

Obstacle #4: Food.  If someone would just show up with the food, then I would be good to go.  I can plan all flavors of margaritas until the Zombies come home.  Food, is another matter.  I am the girl that drinks her coffee out of the mug that says, "The only reason I have a kitchen is because it came with the house."  Yep, not trying to even pretend about that one.

So, you see my logic?  I'm on the fence.  I need something or someone to push me over.  I'm sure the spirit will move me, but it needs to get over here right quick!

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

United Airlines, For Once, PLEASE Pleasantly Surprise Me?

Somehow, considering how much I do not like to fly, I end up flying a lot.  Not like to fly?  Am I afraid that I will crash?  No, not afraid of that.  I am more afraid of the total flight experience.  Here are my top 10 flying peeves:

1.  Packing and not knowing whether I'm best off to cram it in the carry on or pack the big bag.
2.  Getting to the airport early.
3.  Magically Disappearing Seats.
4.  Have my luggage disappear.
5.  Getting delayed.
6.  Getting bumped.
7.  Getting rerouted.
8.  Waiting and knowing how the other half lives.
9.  Trapped in my middle seat.
10. Annoying, rude passengers that their momma's should have taught better.

1.  Let's begin with number 1, the packing.  Sometimes there is a fee for checking.  Sometimes there is a fee for carry on.  Sometimes you sit with your knees in your face because other people have brought on enough carry ons for a traveling sideshow.  If I carry on, I know where my luggage is.  If I carry on, I know where my luggage is because I am lugging it around and racing with it to my connecting flight.

2.  I also hate spending as much time waiting around airports as the length of my total flying time.  Seriously, if you fly from the Bay Area to LA, you could spend more time hanging at the airport and flying than driving in your car.

3.  Seats.  How many times have we booked our family of 5 for a trip, including young children, to arrive at the airport and have our seats magically disappear?  Even if they are on the reservation and the boarding pass, it never fails that my youngest daughter is seated in the middle seat between two men. I am also sitting in the middle seat between two men who have the manners of monkeys, so I am in no position to barter seats or switch.

4.  Our luggage regularly disappears.  We always find it again, but in those gray moments of not having boots and warm coats in minus 20 degree weather, I have been a doubter.  My fondest memories are not composed of late nights in a 24 hour chain department store/supermarket buying toothpaste and underwear after a long day of travel.

5.  Delayed.  Do I need to say more?

6.  Bumped.  When you bump a family of 5 in December right before the holidays, it is very hard to rebook them.  I love spending my days in an airport, waiting.

7.  Rerouted.  Almost more fun than being bumped.  Who doesn't want to be flying into Sacramento instead of San Francisco?  The 3 hour drive at 2 in the morning doesn't even equal 5 hours of sleep when you get home.

8.  Worse yet, I've found that when I travel without my bonus card-carrying, travel-pro husband, I am screwed.  I know there are cocktails and snacks behind that lounge door.  I know that there is priority boarding, business class champagne and a special S.O.S. number for when 1-10 happens to you.  Darn.  Wish I didn't even know about the perks sometimes, especially when I am waiting in the longest lines I have ever seen.

9.  Middle seat, I love you when I am traveling with my family.  I curse you when I sit next to the grouchy man who refuses to turn his ipad off when we are taxiing to the runway.  I use to be a teacher.  I am not afraid of you grouchy man.  Yes, I did just tell you to turn that thing off!  Why do you need a parent when you are clearly over 50?

10. And that middle seat story just flows over into annoying passengers.  These are the entitled ones.  Were they football players in high school?  Cheerleaders?  I don't know, but if you are in coach, you are in coach.  Be nice.  Help people with their bags.  Smile, don't be too chatty, but at least be quietly friendly for goodness sake.  Grouchy people make this world a little less fun for the rest of us.

Tomorrow I fly with United, again.  I fly with United often.  Lately, it is never very good.  I hope tomorrow I am pleasantly surprised.  That is a post for tomorrow.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Going to the Dogs: Crating Puppy and Teaching Couch Potato Old Dogs and Owners New Tricks

We have had our puppy, Roxy, since mid March.  She is crated on a regular basis in our downstairs bathroom.  We've wedged her crate into the shower stall and made the inside of her prison as cozy as possible.

There were many opinions on how a puppy would effect our 13 year old collie lab cross, Kiki.  She is basically the most quiet, well-mannered dog you can ever hope for as a family dog.  She doesn't require much, she is basically a house dog.  She goes out for walks, but she has always been a happy couch potato--so somehow, she got into the proper couch potato family.

Roxy has fit in well.  We've determined she is at least half couch potato dog, as she is a snuggler.  She thinks Kiki is her mama, but there will be therapy down the road for Roxy, because Kiki feels in no way any maternal urges toward the pint sized pain in the butt puppy.  Mostly, they peacefully co-exist, but if Roxy gets a little to much in Kiki's happiness zone, watch out!

When we leave the house, Kiki is calm and happy to hang out.  Roxy is happy to use a chair as a chew toy, so we've been faithful kennel trainers and put Roxy in her kennel when we leave.  When Roxy goes in, we say "Kennel Time!" We throw a yummy assortment of treats into the kennel, and Roxy happily jumps in.  Of course, there are treats for Kiki at kennel time, too.

Today, I came upon Kiki in the bathroom.  She was wistfully staring into Roxy's kennel.  It has a fleecy, comfy pad, oodles of toys and it smells like treats from the doorway.  As Roxy is 15 pounds and Kiki is 65 pounds, Kiki can only hope to get her head in the doorway of the kennel.

This scene really made me think about whether we've cursed Kiki, or made her life more interesting.  A bouncy, Tigger-like toddler puppy is like me at a pre school mom coffee--there is nothing more sure to quickly make you feel whithered, tired and old.

Yet, Kiki has had more petting, more walks and more treats than she's seen in her life since she was a puppy.  We've had to drag our couch potato selves out with the puppy to get Roxy out in the world and wear her energy down.  There have been benefits for everyone, whether it's a walk for Kiki or mother daughter chat.

At that quiet moment, I snuck into the bathroom and gave Kiki a bone.  Good dog, Kiki.

Monday, September 10, 2012

The Canadian Chronicles: Building A Better Mouse Trap, Part 2

It seems like mice are a recurring theme in our Canadian cottage existence. As soon as I saw the evidence that I was using the kitchen by day, but that the mice were using the kitchen by night, I called my husband to action.

The first thing he did was ask me if I was sure. I love this. Many times, people as me if I can tell that a mouse has been in a particular place for "SURE." After all of these years, I can almost spot mouse poop at fifty paces without my glasses--and I have a darn strong eyeglass prescription.

Well, step number one in our battle plan was to visit the local hardware and buy traps. Birk, who was listening to our conversation on the way to the hardware store, was arguing that we should live trap the critters and set them free outside of the house.

No matter how we tried to explain that putting the mice from inside the house to outside the house was not going to help our cause. She was adamant that we should not trap and kill the mice. We tried to explain that it's kind of like putting Brer Rabbit in the brier patch, after all, the mice know their way back home.

After the hardware store stop, we were making the longer drive to get groceries, about an hour's drive away. Birk had asked us to stop at Marble Lake Lodge's restaurant Ate to Ate. We agreed and started the drive. On the way, I looked back and tears were streaming down her face: she had seen the traps in the hardware bag.

At the restaurant, she refused to eat. We ordered her food anyway, including a big, thick chocolate shake. We reasoned. We cajoled. Finally she ate and we continued on with our day. Problem solved for the short term.

Two funny things happened after that. The first, is at the end of the summer, weeks later, I was helping Birk to clean her room and put everything away for the season. In the corner of her room, under some stuffed animals and cast off clothing, were the mouse traps. She had taken the traps and hidden them all summer!

The second thing that happened has to do with the Story of Stuff. She was assigned to watch the YouTube video. After watching it, she had to make an action plan to help save the Earth. Her action plan is to have people donate gently used clothing and bedding to people in need. It also includes encouraging more people have and shop at garage sales.

She likened people being held hostage by possessions like a hungry mouse. The more human food that the mice had, the more human food they would try to steal. If the only food we provided was in a trap, then they would have to brave the danger to get the food. However, if we gave them food, then they could live happily with us and wouldn't have to steal the food.

Living in harmony with the mice population, I will have to give that some thought.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

See That Island?

We were driving home from a long weekend at our friend's cabin on Lake Kirkwood. Birk looked out the window while we were crossing the San Rafael bridge and said, "See that island? I want to live there."

Then, one of those moments, the kind that I absolutely love, happened. She continued, "I want to build a house, a yellow one with a blue door. I'll live there and just invent things."

Yes, I absolutely love it when I hear my 10 year old dreaming in technicolor!

Thursday, August 23, 2012

The Canadian Chronicles: Motherhood and Re-Inventing the Wheel: Mouse Poop And Death

Every new mother experiences motherhood as if she is re-inventing the wheel. I did it. You might have done it. My daughters will do it if they choose to have children. It is a new mother's birthright.

At any given time, in any given place, in any given situation, no mother's experience is the same as any other mother's experience. Especially in this google infused age within which we live.

This can be explained to older people and younger people, not moms of the moment in this way: not only are there articles as to why drinking wine and coffee can kill you, there are an equal number of articles why drinking wine and coffee can save you from a slow and painful death. If I believe everything I read, everyone I know in Northern California is a binge drinker. See, just like coffee and wine habits, as new moms, you can find many reasons why your newborn will die in its sleep or perish from pesticides.

I was raised in a family restaurant business. Any kind of vermin were verboten in that land. Cleanliness and cross contamination were lively topics discussed both at home and at work. If I see a mouse in the barn, I am relaxed, if I see a mouse at a restaurant I scream. It was all context. I came into the storyline late with my own background story. Mouse in the wild=cute. Mouse in cottage=scream.

For the beginning of my cottage experience with babies, I was sure every piece of mouse poop contained the Hanta Virus. We were all going to die, and my baby was going to go first--I had at least a 120 pound advantage. I rallied a raging war against cleaning up after errant mice. Those smart little cute critters had to go. They were a danger to my baby!

As a new mom, I read every piece of anything that I could read to keep my baby safe. This is a given. As my parents and in laws shunned the car seats and the distance of crib slats, I was vigilant in making sure that everything was 100 percent as safe as I could make it.

Sure, I survived an age of no seat belts and even no car seats, but if there was a better way, I was going to find it and adhere to it. Even if I didn't get my head caught in wide crib slats and choke to death, I was in no way even going to keep myself up at night by using a second hand crib.

I went through most of my first born's years feeling like a gigantic German Shepherd sitting by his side and protecting him from any harm. I am happy to say, German Shepherd instincts kick in automatically, ask any mother. These are exactly the reasons that first time moms mother's groups don't have any mothers of second or third babies. Once you've been the German Shepherd, you are tired and you've already baby-proofed the horizon.

My mother in law mentioned the other day about how much calmer I am about mouse poop. Well, I can only explain it that my first born weighs 160 pounds and has a better immune system than I do at this point. My youngest weighs in around 70 pounds, and she is smart enough not to pick up a brown oblong pebble and pop it in her mouth. Viola. There you have it.

I am done re-inventing that wheel and will start on a new wheel--college applications!

Sunday, August 19, 2012

The Canadian Chronicles: The Last Pick From The Summer Lake Garden

The Canadian Chronicles: Memorie's Hot Chocolate

The most delicious and beautiful hot chocolate in Ottawa. Maybe the best anywhere!

Sunday, August 12, 2012

The Canadian Chronicles: Explaining Ottawa Airport

A picture is worth a thousand words. This is it as far as arrivals go. No where to go, you can't get lost. Truly a kinder, gentler airport.

Friday, August 10, 2012

The Canadian Chronicles: A Country Wrong Turn...

Equals ice cream!

The Canadian Chronicles: Rat, Free To A Good Home

Birk found a friend at the pet store, um, the answer to that is "No!"

Monday, August 6, 2012

The Canadian Chronicles: Do It Yourself Rental Car Air Freshener

A little basil goes a long way! Leave it to Birk & a little tape!

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

The Canadian Chronicles: The Summer of No Mosquitos

I was just sitting post coffee out on our front porch. The sun was streaming through the trees in soft, filtered light that illuminated the morning in a gentle way that speaks only of summer.

Usually, there are a few mosquitos buzzing about. It was funny that I noticed their absence, I sure do notice their presence!

This summer, along with being absent of rain, has been absent of mosquitos. I do not miss these critters, but it reminds me, fondly almost, of year's past.

One summer, it was like the kids had chicken pox! They had so many bites in so many places that they looked like they were battling a virus. If there was any malaria going around northern Ontario, we would have all had it that summer!

Another summer, a friend lay in her bed, deep into the night, armed with a bottle of bug spray. She just kept firing away, trying to eradicate the buzzing and biting. She went through at least two whole bottles of bug spray that trip--now every time I smell citronella, I think of my friend and the ch ch of the spray bottle.

There were many nights that we had to make a run for it from the car to the front door. Not only were we avoiding the bites, we were hoping to keep as many mosquitos as possible out of the house. Then, we would grab fly swatters and kill as many of the offenders as we could, before we went about settling in for the night.

I've always tried to think of a good reason for mosquitos and I've never come up with any. On the tail of writing about good guests and bad guests, I'm just enjoying that they didn't visit this summer.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

The Canadian Chronicles: Roxy, First International Trip

Shown here with her world famous mistress and trainer. Ruth has worked so hard on getting this pup trained & ready for travel. I am so proud of my smart and resourceful daughter!

The Canadian Chronicles: Poop Patrol, North of the Border

Sometimes, Birk is thinking so far out of the box that she enters another dimension.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Canadian Chronicles 2012: Californians Foraging for Food in Canadian Cottage Country

We are spoiled baby brats in the Bay Area when it comes to many things, especially food. The farmer's markets operate year round, and there always seems to be local, organic fresh something to tempt us.

Entering Canada, there is not only a coastal warp, but it is a coastal seasonal warp. There is also a foodie void. I'm sure if you lived here 24/7 365, you would know all of the good spots to scrounge up truffled salt and a darn bit of freshly baked, organic whole grain bread. Remove yourself 2 hours from a major city, and you'd better be making your own bread if you like it a particular way.

And, maybe that is why Canadian women are such good cooks. Maybe that is also why there is dessert with every dinner.

We've found a little natural food store that carries a lot of our normal products. They also have local meat and eggs, not organic and always free range, but at least the meat comes from smaller farms. The amount of organic produce seems to have slipped at our little store over the last few years, more and more conventional veggies are clogging the shelves. Yesterday, I was surprised to see garlic from Argentina. After all, we were in the garlic capital of Canada.

I bought some fresh cherries, not local, but they were at least from the US. We had gone a few days without fresh fruit and were living on PB & J. My family descended on 2 pounds of cherries like a hungry pack of wolves. No need to worry about what to do with any leftovers.

There is always an adjustment when we arrive. Now we grocery shop at what can best be described as an upscale 7 11. Years ago, we the local grocery store was in somebody's house, so I guess things are looking up.

Canadian Chronicles: Day One, Year 16

OK, so we've been doing this for about 16 years: leaving civilization and hanging out in cottage country for a chunk of our summer. One would think, after all of these years, a girl would get the drill down.

And, I do have some of the drill down. And, some of the old drill, that I have down, doesn't necessarily meet the drill of the modern day needs.

For example, tonight we had popcorn with Lava Vine Olive Oil (so yum if you haven't had Lava Vine wines or olive oil, you should make a point of seeking it out) and truffle salt. Yes, in my frenzy of packing, I packed my favorite olive oil and truffle salt.

I also brought a Kitchen Aid stand mixer that we've had for at least 10 years. It makes for a heavy carry on, but it made it in one piece.

Now, why would one lug a stand mixer to the cottage? Because here we cook. There is no Whole Foods that we can storm into and whip up a salad and pick up a roasted organic free range chicken at. We cook here, and I hope it sees some more action.

What I haven't learned, note to self, is that we have enough adult clothes here to outfit a small nation. We don't need dress shoes, purses, belts or anything. We literally could come here and dress in the finest of fashion (well, some of the fashion is 20 years old, but no one is going to go naked or chilly, that's for sure).

Also, the cottage reno, as I groaned about the amount of money and hassle and lack of actual time to effort ratio, had this small gleaming promise of making a "mouse proof" environment.

And, in this small gleam of a promise, I did the unthinkable. I did the thing that I have gone above and beyond not to do in the 16 years that we've owned this place. I put clothes in the drawers and on the shelves and left them there. I put pillows in plastic bags, not to seal them off from the famous winter mouse population, but just to keep the dust off them. In keeping the dust off them, I did not seal the ziplock seals.

When I was a kid, I read this poem once:

If you build a better mouse trap and
Put it in your house,

Soon Mother Nature,
Will build a better mouse.

I learned the hard way not to mess with Mother Nature this time around. The mouse families had a field day last winter. They visited every drawer possible. They chewed through clothing and made a nice comfy nest and made themselves right at home.

I am still working on my "lesson."

Notes to self:

1. Seal everything. Keep putting everything in bins. Do not leave anything out, because it makes cleaning up the next year all that much harder. It also means that you will be doing laundry until the loons come home.

2. Do not bring any clothing. It only makes for a sore back and an overflow closet situation.

However, if mice have chewed your underwear, it is nice to have some clean back ups from home. Oh, and some olive oil and truffled popcorn to drown your sorrows in.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

The Canadian Chronicles: Canada Here We Come!

Well, the clock is ticking down to our annual summer house shift. The bags are piling up by the door, the final bills are being paid and all of the appointments are getting checked off the to do list.

In a few days, we will cross the border and sink into summer.

Someone asked if I was ready for vacation. The thing is, if I go into this thinking it's a vacation I need to A) rewrite my definition of vacation and B) rewrite my definition of vacation.

My current definition of vacation includes turn down service, a complete lack of knowing what we are having for dinner and a bed I didn't make with sheets that I didn't wash.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

A Stitch in Time: Disney World, Teenagers & Giant Stuffed Animals

The one souvenir that my teenage daughter wanted from Disney World was a giant sized Stitch stuffed animal. We're talking a blue, furry alien that would require another plane ticket.

I held out as long as I could, and then, on our last night, tried to cook up a magical idea.

We sent the teenagers away to wander the park. I grabbed Stitch and bee lined it back to our hotel. Our sweet hotel concierge, Mary, hid Stitch behind her desk.

The girls returned to the hotel. We all got ready and left for dinner. As we got into the elevator, we gave Mary the thumbs up.

While we were away, Mary created a Stitch situation in our hotel room.

When we returned after dinner, the girls opened the door and wondered why the television was on.

Then Ruth screamed and ran to her bed. There was Stitch, wrapped in ever charge cord that we had in the room, watching TV and eating a cookie and some gummies.

It was a magical, happy last night in the Magic Kingdom for Ruth.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

At the End of the Line, Pushing My Way to the Front

We just finished a 5 day trip to Walt Disney World. After 5 days of lining up, racing to the next line, lining up and then racing to the next line again, I entered an alternate personality zone.

By the time we reached the security line at the airport to catch our flight home, I had a whole new subconscious behavior going on. As we merged into the security line, I was cut off from my merge by a family of 5 with their 3 boys riding their suitcases.

Now, I am a mom, who is part of a family of 5. I wasn't irked by the cute boys as they drove their suitcases like motorcycles. I was, however, irked by the mom who insisted on ramming her empty stroller in my path.

In my normal existence, I'd let her have the right of way and be done with it. After my Disney line standing experience, I was not about to let my merger be cut off at the pass. I had days of line conditioning, and even though I wasn't late for my flight, I pressed on.

And I pressed on until I had wedged myself and Ruth in front of the phantom stroller mama. As soon as I had established my position in line, I was completely horrified. Had I just asserted myself in such a non-characteristic way? I'm not a hostile line type of woman. I am always last on the bus any time push comes to shove. How had Disney effected me so deeply?

I mean, I am the person who found $3.00 on the floor of the gift shop and handed it in to the cashier. I am the one that helps lost children find their parents. I am the one who picks up the spilled napkins and hands them to the buffet keeper.

Yet, for a split second, I was the one who cut the other mom off at the pass. Lucky for her, my line karma was with me. She made it through security first. I always pick the longest line, and was still waiting to take my shoes off as her brood of motorcyclists vroomed down the walkway toward their flight.

I am back to normal now. I'll be the one waving you through the 4 way stop when we are tied to go. I'll be the one with 15 items telling you to pass me up in line at the grocery store so that you can check out with your 3 items.

But for that flash of a second, I was someone else. I was a Disney Villain!

Monday, June 11, 2012

Graduation, Check!

We now officially have a high school junior, a high school freshman and a middle school 5th grader in our family! It was an exciting last week of school with many commemorative activities that left us with all of these very grown up kids.

And now, it's time for laundry. Just kidding a little bit. With all of the excitement around here, the little things in life have gone on the wayside, so it's time for bills and laundry. It's time to catch up on the mundane, yet necessary business of life.

It feels so good to finally have arrived at summer. The first official day, and all of the kids are sleeping, but I've been up and busy and getting the little things done so later we can do the really fun things like Pilates and doctor's appointments.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Driving Me Crazy, Where Does the Time Go? Who Brings it Back?

Now that John is driving every chance he can get, life seems a little strange. He seems like a thoughtful, careful driver, and I'm even a little relaxed when I'm his passenger.

I've looked around and realized that life is on a steady railroad track of a path. It keeps chugging by, swaying and rolling along at a steady pace. It's also not stopping.

Ruth graduates 8th grade tomorrow. She is so grown up and ready for high school. Birk has grown at least a foot and sprouted the legs like stilts. She will be a middle schooler tomorrow.

It drives me pretty crazy to think about what lies ahead. These kids are growing and changing every day. I'm not the same either, but I am happy to see them happy and excited about what is coming down the tracks next.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

3 4th Grade Wishes from Birk

If I Had 3 Wishes

Write: what you would wish? Why you chose what you did. Are there any negative consequences? What can you to to help each of your wishes come true?

Answer: My wish is to destroy all of the money in the world and burn it so everybody shares everything.

Enough said.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Lazy Dog, Lazy Teenager and Exhausted Mom

Our new puppy is a lazy puppy. She is happy to sleep in until noon with her new mistress, our teenage daughter. That is all well and good, but why go outside to pee when you can just use the convenient laundry room carpet?

Thinking I'm pretty smart, I out foxed the little Roxy and removed the rug. My strategy seemed to be working, until this morning.

It seems that it didn't bother Roxy that the rug was no longer there. Sometime over the weekend, she peed in her normal spot. No problem, until you realize that the floor is on a bit of a slant, and the pee was festering underneath our stacked washer and dryer.

I spent my Monday on hands and knees, trying to devise a way to clean underneath a washer with a mighty low clearance. Success? Won't know until later, I guess.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Years of iPhone Pictures Explained

These are the very first iPhone pictures that I took. My husband and two older kids were traveling to Ecudor. I was traveling to Disney World with Birk. I got the phone so that we could keep in touch.

It was also on that day, as we were delayed from SFO into LAX and needed to catch our Orlando flight, that I realized the power of the smart phone.

I googled the flight and the airline gate and airport map. We got off the plane. and knew exactly which direction to run in. Just made our flight! Whew!