Monday, January 25, 2010

What We Pay For

You've got to admit, biking at the beach in January is pretty sweet. (Especially if you've grown up in the mid west.) Back in early January we loaded up the bikes and went to Santa Monica for a little beach day. It was actually the weekend of the Rose Bowl so we were not super excited to find GOBS of people swarming the place, Oregon and Ohio sweatshirts abounding.

The brilliant ibert.
We biked far enough down the coast we couldn't see the pier (or the people) anymore. We found the prettiest beach with a fun outcropping of rocks that the kids played on for about a half an hour.

As I was biking back to the car Rachael started yelling "HORSE!" and pointing wildly toward the building we just passed. I hadn't even noticed the carousel inside.
Driving home I couldn't resist taking more pictures of downtown. (There's Bob looking on.)

The traditional post-beach meal. What else is there? Seriously.
What more could you ask for? Simple menu . . .
Cute uniforms (look at that safety pin!) and fresh potatoes ready for frying . . .
Satisfied kids.
Heaven on earth, wrapped in a paper bag.

I've Seen Fire and I've Seen Rain

I love James Taylor. I wonder if he was living in California when he wrote that song.

The rain has stopped (for now) and much to the dismay of the media there were no massive mudslides bringing wide spread destruction. We don't have cable so I'm not totally sure how it was portrayed, but I know that more than one person from out of state contacted me to be sure I was okay and I'm guessing it had something to do with the news coverage. The way the mountain sits behind our house, the mud will flow into a big ravine a block away. We actually hiked down there on Sunday and it was fascinating to see the changes made from both the fire and the recent rains.

This first picture was taken outside the grocery store a day before the rains started. Clouds like this were common in Iowa, but it's always a little surprising to see them here.
These next two pictures were taken in front of my children's school and from our church parking lot. This is also a little surprising to see around here - especially with a palm tree. Snow this low only lasted one day.
This snow will last a little longer. I heard on the news today that the ski resort town of Big Bear (about 3 hours north) is running out of food and gas from all people coming up there to ski!

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

What Are You Making?

I recently found myself in a craft store with all four of my children. Even on a good day taking that many children into a store full of thousands of colorful things to see and touch is not a good idea, but my twelve year old daughter is blessed with creative ideas and the ability to make them reality so I like to indulge her on occasion. This time it was for Christmas and Hanukkah fabric. She planned to make festive pillowcases for a nearby children's hospital to brighten the beds of sick children during the holidays.

As I was standing in line at the fabric cutting table, I felt anxious to hurry up and get out of there. My twelve year old was quietly perusing the aisles, but the younger three were getting restless and handling way too many bobbins of thread. I was also feeling a little embarrassed by my two year old who has clothing fetishes. After much blood, sweat and tears (emphasis on the tears) I had successfully maneuvered a jacket over her current obsession: a filthy, bright yellow "Iowa Hawkeyes" tee-shirt she had been wearing for over twenty four hours. I noticed however, that she had pulled a Houdini, gotten out of the jacket and was mischievously smiling up at me from the cart full of fabric bolts - messy hair and snotty nose to boot!

There were no other mothers with young children in the store, so in my self-consciousness I assumed the other customers were feeling annoyed by my children and maybe even looking down on me for the seeming neglect of my toddler. I was jolted out of my preoccupation with self when the woman behind me asked, "What are you making?" Before my turn at the cutting table was up I was asked that question three times. I realized after the third time that's what women do at craft stores while waiting in line - they share what they are making. It was fun to hear about everyone else's projects, but I learned something that day from the response I got to my daughter's project and my children in general.

I had been viewing this trip to the craft store from a very short lens. All I could focus on was getting what we needed and getting out of there without doing too much damage to the store or my self respect. But when I stopped to talk to the women around me and look into their eyes, I saw myself and my children from a much longer lens. I didn't see disdain or annoyance at all. I saw admiration for my daughter and her project, and I think I even detected a bit of admiration for a woman willing to bring four children to a craft store for the sake of encouraging her daughter to develop her talent and make something for someone else. I even sensed a wistful longing for a family with several small and adorable children. An unbidden thought came to me suddenly and struck with total clarity: what am I making? I'm making a home and a family, that's what I'm making. As I stood with those women and looked at my children from their vantage point, I understood for one perfect minute just how influential - even monumental - the seemingly mundane acts of motherhood really are.

As mothers, we make so many things for our families. We make sack lunches, we make lists, we make scrapbooks, we make Halloween costumes, we make beds, we make trips to craft stores, we make phone calls to teachers, we make plans for the future, we make time for our children. And in all the making, let's not forget what we are really making: homes and families. Families that consist of little people literally becoming every day who they will be for the rest of their lives - a creation of the feelings and experiences they will have while under our care. When we view our work as mothers from this lengthy perspective, the mundane becomes meaningful and the routine a reason to rejoice in being a mom.

To read more stuff like this, go here.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Happy New Year . . . a little late.

I've been recuperating from the holidays (i.e. trying to get back on a schedule), but I have some really great pictures from the week between Christmas and New Year's when the kids were still home. Here it goes:

Where else do you go on New Year's Eve Day if you live in L.A. but Chinatown! Okay, so it wasn't really the Chinese New Year since they use the lunar calendar, but it still seemed like a fun idea. The kids got it into their heads that they wanted some of the cheap little souvenirs found in abundance there (they all had petty cash from allowance burning holes in their pockets), so we boarded the metro and off we went. Seems silly to drive east to Pasadena to take the metro south into L.A. but it was all part of the adventure.

Rachael was the only one not interested in buying something,
but I think she cost the most in quarters.
Surveying the scene.
She was pretty proud of her purchase. Five bucks never looked so cute!
This trashy little wishing well always cracks us up. There are several tiers of trays to throw coins in labeled "luck", "happiness", "love", "wealth", etc. The lowest, easiest tray to reach is happiness, and the highest, most difficult one is wealth. Hello? Priorities anyone?
The wall of fans.
Will was all about his heelies. And the kung fu swords. (Or whatever they were.) We didn't let him buy one for obvious reasons, but he and Kate actually wizened up by the end of the day and decided to save their money for stuff they really wanted instead of touristy trinkets. The ultimate irony was found in a store with $1 chopsticks that were made in the good ol' U.S. of A. Seriously.
Are there any palm trees in China?
Two fans and some kung pao chicken later. . .
I'm into pictures of downtown lately, and would you look at my luck? I had no idea this bird was even in the picture until I looked at it on the computer back home.
Our New Year's Eve festivities included going to Todd and Shauna's house to party with the cousins over apple pie a la mode and watch the ball drop at Times Square on CNN. That would be 9pm here - perfect timing. I used to get into the whole ring-in-the-new-year-at-midnight thing until I had kids. Now I just want to get in bed since I know I can't sleep in. I wasn't completely off the hook though since Kate really really really wanted to stay up until midnight - just because. The allure of that magical moment when one year turns into another. Brandon somehow manages to function on 6 hours of sleep a night on a regular basis so he just took it as an opportunity to watch The Lord of the Rings again. I had plans to go to bed early, but Kate threw the gauntlet down when she said I was no fun. Me? No fun? Are you kidding me? So I stayed awake until midnight. Just barely. What has become of me? I always promised myself I would be the fun mom and here I was forcing myself to stay awake on New Year's Eve so my tween wouldn't think I was boring! Time has a funny way of changing you.

Rachael insisted on wearing these glasses upside down while she enjoyed her dessert. This is seconds before she starts yelling for a "poon". No matter what we're having, she wants a spoon.
Happy New Year!

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Christmas Morning 2009

Here it is - that golden moment in the early morning light before anyone has opened any presents. I'm of the opinion that waking up to the sight of the presents under the tree, stockings stuffed and the cookies eaten by Santa is far better than opening the presents themselves. As a child Brandon used to get up at some point in the middle of the night every Christmas Eve just to go out and see the tree and be alone with it all for awhile before morning came and the moment was gone. Kate does the same thing now. This year she was up at 3:00, checked everything out, read a book until 4:30, then slept until 5:30. The next two kids woke up shortly after that, but Brandon and I did the best we could to sleep through the whisperings until almost 7:00.

You see Brandon's stocking on the far right? Totally empty. That's because his wife fell asleep early in the process of setting up for Christmas morning and he did most of the work, with the exception of filling his own stocking. I filled it eventually.
Nothing like a little chocolate to start the day off right!
We follow the tradition of Brandon's family and do stockings first, then breakfast, then opening the other presents. We also go from youngest to oldest, choosing gifts from under the tree to give to someone to open while everyone else watches. We go around and around until all the presents are gone. No rip and tear at this house - after all the preparation and anticipation, we like to drag out Christmas morning as long as we can!
The kids look forward to Christmas breakfast as much as anything else. Homemade "Clone of a Cinnabon" cinnamon rolls, sausage breakfast casserole and grapefruit halves with sugar. I don't remember when this became a tradition in our little family, but it's to the point now where I can't vary any part of the meal or someone is going to have something to say!
Go here for the recipe.
The year of the Snuggi!! Kate wanted one bad. That and a pocketknife. (She's been waiting for years.) And some new heelies. I don't have any other good Christmas morning pictures because I just wanted to enjoy the day, but Will's favorite presents were a hand me down Unicycle his Uncle Trenton got for Christmas probably twenty years ago, the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series, and a Batman game for his DS. Elizabeth says her favorite gifts were a little remote control car meant for Rachael (funny how that worked out), a microphone, and a little wooden cookie "baking" set.
There's just nothing quite like spending the day in your pajamas, opening presents and eating candy. Is it any wonder kids of all ages love Christmas so much?

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