Monday, December 31, 2012

Some 2013 Resolutions

It's that reflecting time of year....

The Storm: "In 2013, I'm going to work on my patience."  
Me: "I resolve less technology for everyone!"

Sunshine: "I'm going to have better posture because I think bad posture is ugly and I want to be pretty."

Shadow: "I'm already pretty and I know it. Instead, I resolve to be walked more often."

Balthazar: "I'm going to convince my wife to stop posting about our personal lives on her blog."

Me: "But just look at these faces, how can I not share them with the world?"

Hollywood: "I'm going to procrastinate less."

Cuz (visiting from Canada): "Can I tell you later?"

What's your 2013 resolution?

Happy New Year, Everyone! Thanks for reading!  

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Holiday Sock Day!

It's officially Holiday Sock Day at The Storm's school.

"Wear your high-cut Converse," Sunshine offered. "Here, wear them like this. This is the style. Let me help you."

Ah, sisterly love--an early Christmas present for Mom to enjoy while she sips her morning tea.

We done good, Balthazar!

Even Shadow agrees.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Another Mountain Metaphor

The temps are unseasonably warm here in Vegas, this December. I don't know if that's a good thing, but it does make for pleasant hiking. The Coop has a favorite spot we like to hike, just west of the city, called Red Rock Canyon where the fiery red rock is as gorgeous and interesting and mesmerizing as the views from the top of mountain.

Our favorite route starts with a short walk over some mildly uphill terrain, before we reach the bottom of a mile-high saddle in the mountain. Then it's maybe an hour of serious rock scrambling, before we reach the pinnacle to settle atop our favorite overhang in the sun, for a picnic lunch.

There are no trails to follow up the saddle. In fact, as many times as I've climbed it, I don't believe I've ever taken the same route twice. There are just too many protruding rocks, loose rocks, crevices to squeeze through, obstacles to get around, steep rocks to haul yourself over, and flat spots to crawl under--and too many enticing overhangs and caves that beckon to be explored. 

Each new climb brings new perspectives--each step, even--and each new perspective promises a better route, so that Balthazar and I often find ourselves standing side-by-side analyzing our next move towards the top.

"This way looks good," he'll say.

"I like this way better," I'll say. Then he'll climb a boulder and I'll skirt around it, or I'll climb a boulder and he'll skirt around it, and we'll meet up on the other side.

Mountains have always been obvious metaphors for life.  

The first time that The Coop embarked on this fabulous adventure, I worried for the kids.  Everywhere up this mile high saddle is the potential to slip and scrape a knee; to twist an ankle; to really get hurt.

"Please be careful," I said, over and over, to them, that first time. And I insisted they stay within mere feet of me all the way up--so I could catch them, if they fell; advise them of the best routes; prohibit them from attempting anything too dangerous.

Mother knows best.

But now that the hike has become more familiar to us, now that I've seen how well they handle themselves on the rocks, now that I've heard the thrill in their shouts from across the mountain--Mom, look at me way over here; Mom, this way is really cool; Mom, look, I'm up here, look how high I climbed--I've learned to let them be free on the mountain, to find their own paths, their own nooks.

Mother doesn't always know best.

I was heartbroken when Sunshine quit ballet, last June.  I was sure she was making a mistake.

"You let her quit?" several people gasped, implying that I shouldn't have.

Honestly, I wouldn't have--if I thought that it was up to me.  But, in my heart and in my head, I knew the decision had to be hers. She had to want it a hundred times more than I wanted it for her, if she was to ever to truly call herself a ballerina. If she was ever to be happy.

"I traded ballet for better grades and a social life," she says, today, completely satisfied with her decision, completely content with her life.

Hollywood, of course, wants to be an actor--I struggle with this, knowing that the life of an actor is not an easy one.  I imagine all of the rejection he'll come up against before he ever makes it, and how this will break his heart over and over again. And he doesn't even like ramen noodles, so what will he eat?

But just like it became obvious to me that ballet wasn't in Sunshine's blood, I can't deny the stars in Hollywood's eyes, the passion in soul, the drama in his future.

Please be careful, I want to say. I see a safer route, I want to tell him. Instead, I drive him to acting classes, meet with agents, prep him for auditions.

I suppose I could say no. I could warn him away. And I could do it in such a way that he would believe me. He trusts me, so if I were to explain to him that he really would be better off with a degree in dentistry, or accounting--if I began, right now, my lobbying for his different path, I could make it so.

But then would he ever shout out at me again from across the mountain?

Mom, look at me!

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Left Out in The Storm

It all started when Hollywood got his hair cut.

For a long time, he'd been thinking about chopping off his curls. Middle school is a tough time and we (and he) thought a shorter, less conspicuous style might make his school days a little more tolerable.

The good news is that it seems to have worked. His confidence is up and he loves his new look. I like it, too: It highlights his sparkly blue eyes, his crazy long lashes, and his firm jawline. And he looks older now, more like the teen he is.

But, it is with this new look, this more grown-up Hollywood, that The Storm's troubles all began.

Let me back up:

It all started when Hollywood got his haircut.

"Oh my gosh!" said the stylist. "I never realized how much you look like Sunshine." 

"Doesn't he?" I said, because although they've always looked alike, suddenly, for his new height, and his new hair, they could be twins.

"Sometimes, I feel left out," said The Storm, later, when she and I left the salon to do some shopping. "I don't look like anyone."

"It's just that they look like Dad and you look like me," I said--but that wasn't what she wanted to hear.

For the next few days, there was much gasping over Hollywood's haircut and the strong resemblance he bore to his big sister. And the two teenagers in our home were suddenly bonding as they hadn't in years, laughing over things that weren't funny to the baby of the family, jokes too sophisticated for a nine-year-old. 

When she wanted to play Monopoly, they didn't. When she wanted to watch Disney movies, they wanted to watch a scary movies. When she wanted cookies, they wanted ice cream.

At the dinner table, the two grew animated sharing stories about thier days at school.

"She's awful," agreed Sunshine, of a teacher Hollywood was complaining about, one she knew from her own middle school years, one whose name The Storm couldn't properly pronounce. More laughing.

"We're doing a science fair," said The Storm, about her own school day, but the teenagers weren't very interested.

Sunshine told us instead about a girl from her science class who was probably on drugs.

"We start our drug awareness course, next week," said Hollywood.

"Oh, that's an intense week," said Sunshine, and she went on to preview all that Hollywood could expect.

The Storm asked to be excused.

We've thought a lot about this, Balthazar and I, about the very different upbringing our two daughters have had. When Sunshine was nine, our dinner table conversations included all the topics you might expect of a family with a preschooler, a second grader, and a fourth grader: dinosaurs, puppies, princesses, and the benefits of eating carrots.

But The Storm, at nine, has been exposed to entirely different family dinner experience.

It's the way of things, Balthazar and I said, by way of forgiving ourselves for the movies we've allowed her to see, the words she's heard, the subjects explored at our table.

Then one evening, shortly after Hollywood had his curls lopped off, when again the subject of how much he resembled his sister came up, The Storm snuck away without even asking to be excused.

She'd been crying for twenty minutes when we found her. 

"We can't help it if we look alike," said Sunshine.

It's more than that I explained after I'd spent another several days thinking about it: "Just because she can keep up with our fast growing family doesn't mean she should have to. She's nine. We need to make room for our nine-year-old."

We started with a game of Monopoly.

Then a family trip to the Santa Monica Pier...

to turn us all into nine-year-olds...

...for just one more day.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Eight Easy Steps to Torture Your Teenager

1. Write a blog about her--include personal information and pictures.

2. Include a link to your blog in your email auto-signature.

3. Send an email to her English teacher...

4. the middle of the school day while your teenager is sitting in English class.

5. Choose a day when the students are ahead of schedule in their Jane Eyre studies and have 20 minutes to kill before the bell rings.

6. Be sure the teacher has a SmartScreen or a some similar technology, so that she can project a magnified version of your blog to the front of the room for all to read.

7. Be sure the English teacher has a nice reading voice so that she will do a brilliant job of reading aloud the posts you've written--about your teenager, her boyfriend, her goofy behavior and her teenage temperment--for the entire 10th grade English class.

8. Also be sure the teacher has a whiteboard, a fresh dry erase marker and concise handwriting, in order that she may share your blog's URL with the students for them to also enjoy it at home.

That's it. That's all it takes. Have fun with it! (I sure did!)

Note: The ever cool cat, Sunshine, took it all in stride--although she admits to blushing furiously--and The Coop had a good laugh about it that night at home.  

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Stop. Drop. And Roll.

From the time they are very young we start teaching our children to be safe. We warn them to stay away from the hot oven or the fireplace; to watch their fingers near doors; not to talk to strangers.  We teach them to stop, look, and listen before crossing the road.  "Never stick a knife in the toaster," we say. "Never play with matches." Then we prep them for emergencies, in case they do: "Stop, drop, and roll."

We warn them, again, as they grow older of the dangers of strangers; then the dangers of the internet; the dangers of drinking and driving; and eventually even about the dangers of premarital sex. So, so many dangers that I can't even come close to listing them here.

Then, finally, we will need to free them to the big, bad world--when all we can do is hope, hope that they remember what we taught them; that they think smart and act quickly; that they use their common sense; that they be lucky.

For the most part, I feel confident about my children's safety.  They're smart. They've got savvy. They follow rules. So, I sleep pretty easy at night.

Then I wake in the morning to this:

"What are you doing? Haven't I taught you anything?"

"It's okay, Mom. It works. I saw it on the internet." 

 Heaven help us! It's definitely time for some refresher courses.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Greener Grasses

Before we moved into our home, she had sat vacant for five years, so the neighbors have told us.  She wasn't in terrible condition, just sadly neglected.  But we liked the neighborhood and the price, and she was in better shape than a lot of abandoned houses in Vegas. So, last January, we bought her. Immediately, we tackled the most important work. We fixed what was broken and scrubbed what needed scrubbing. We ripped up the filthy carpets to lay shiny new floors; and then we unpacked. 
Right about that time, of course, began our five months of lousy hell, wherein all household renovations were put aside while we battled the bugs.
Then it was summer in Vegas and too damn hot to do anything.
But in the lovely temperatures of fall, and bug-free, The Coop finally got at our home-in-progress projects again, painting and decorating, and tending to our abode with all the TLC she hadn't had for so long. 
"It's starting to feel like a home," said Sunshine, and I agreed. Warm hues on the wall and some attention to cozy and comforting details had made the difference--on the inside anyway, but there was still the matter of the yard.  In the front it was fine. The demands of the HOA ensured that the bank had kept the grass watered and the weeds plucked, but the backyard was a whole other story.
For five years, the backyard, which was obviously once rich with greens and florals and palms, was left to grow dry and die, so that by the time we arrived to clean her up, we were forced to yank more than two thirds of the original trees and bushes, more than thirty, in total.  And the driest of dirt had long ago replaced the back lawn. 
First we tried seeding.  The result: Many, many birds. Then long weeds grew, in sporadic clumps, of the few seeds our feathered friends had missed.       
We would need to sod, we determined, but it would be expensive--and double that for the labor. 
"We'll do it ourselves," said Balthazar.
And, this weekend, we did!  Or rather, they did.
Hollywood hauled the sod from the driveway, where it had been delivered, to the backyard. 
Balthazar layed it out.
The Storm stamped it down and watered it.

And Sunshine tilled the dirt in prepartion for it all.
For my part, I made and delivered pancakes--they started very early on Saturday morning.
Kids today aren't required to do much manual labor, particularly anything so strenuous as laying sod. In one sense that's good; In another, it's a shame.  The physical exertion of heavy lifting is so thoroughly satisfying; the pride of a job well done is utterly fulfilling; and the pillow on your bed, at the end of it all--aah!--there's not much better.
All three of the kids had a blast! And Balthazar was mighty proud of them.  
Sure, they were a bit sore the next day, but it was that good kind of sore.
As for me, now I can say, without a doubt: The grass really is greener on my side of the six foot wall!