Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Ugly Christmas Sweater Party

We did it! We put on our ugliest Christmas-themed sweaters and went out to a house party thrown by one of Joel's friends, and now hopefully one of mine. It was a ton of fun; we don't typically get to have a night out on the town, or even a night *in*, without the baby, so this was a very nice break. We dropped Ethan off with a sitter and headed over to check out some very chintzy sweaters, congratulate their owners, and have a few holiday beverages to put a nice spin on the evening. I finally got to meet Joel's friend JH, whom I'd heard so much about for so long... she was great! Tons of fun, very energetic and outgoing, an awesome hostesss, and witty on top of all that. She seems like she'd be so much fun to hang out with, so I hope we both make good on our promises to keep in touch and set a date to get together sometime. It's so easy to say it in the moment, but much more difficult to actually buckle down and make real plans. Maybe it'll be my resolution for next year...

Anyway, without further ado, here are our amazing Christmas sweaters. Joel's by the way, won first prize. Can't wait to try to win again next year!
uglyxmas09_1 (Large)

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

The Milk Machine

This kid loves milk! Yes, it's true: Ethan finally made the switch over to whole milk and is no longer on formula. I just followed the pediatrician's advice and warmed the milk in the bottle so that it was served the same way he has his formula, and he loved it. Now that he has that part down, we're working on reducing the amount of milk he drinks each day to about 20-24 ounces, so that he'll start eating more food. So far, it's working pretty well; he actually is eating more now that he's not full from his liquid diet. Later on, we'll work on weaning him from the bottle. That's not
a huge priority for me at this point, or at least not as important as the food issue.

He just seems to have these weird eating quirks that make it a tad difficult to know what and how to feed him. He is definitely interested in feeding himself, with no help from mom, thanks. Sometimes it works, sometimes it just ends up a game for him, but I know this is a stage we have to get through on the path towards independent eating, so we just keep forging ahead. He's eating a lot of different fruits, and even some vegetables, but he's not so sure about meats yet. He'll eat scrambled eggs and omelets, and seems to enjoy a pretty good variety of seafood as well, but-- and this is a big 'but'-- I never know if the food item he loves today will be spat out tomorrow, for some unknown reason. I'm not sure if it's just the novelty he enjoys, or what, but it seems like the second time he has something he is totally over it. What the heck, kid?! I just keep offering it, of course, along with a few other options, so that he at least gets repeated opportunities to try it. We don't completely dismiss a specific food just because he pushed it away once or twice or seven times. But man, that does get expensive after awhile!

On a good note, though, he doesn't appear to have any food allergies (knock on wood), so we have so far successfully avoided some of the nightmarish experiences a few friends of mine have gone through with their own allergic/sensitive kids. No thanks! I'm so grateful that he may just be picky, rather than one of those kids who can't eat 95% of the groceries we typically buy. Phew!

Either way, though, we know one thing: Pandas are not safe around my boy. Run for your life, Ling Ling! (Just kidding; he's hugging him, of course! Right?)
2009 12 02_Ethan panda 2 (Large)

Monday, December 28, 2009

Christmas 2009

This year was a bit of a subdued holiday, mostly because my dad is in the hospital recovering from his stroke, but also because we are highly aware of our financial situation and didn't want this to become yet another money pit for us. Instead, we focused on getting things we needed, like new hair clippers (I cut Joel's and Ethan's hair at home) because the old ones were starting to yank hair out by the roots, and a new hat and shoes for Ethan. We still have to take my sisters out for their gift, which is a visit to ye olde theatre for an awesome Christmas movie-- we haven't decided which one is going to win the prize of our attendance, yet-- and then follow the movie up with some good ol' chow time. Simple, but that's okay. Buying gifts is fun, too, but not always necessary. Sometimes, it's not just enough to hang out, it's actually more valued and more memorable than getting a package wrapped up in nice paper. I'm also looking forward to a "game day" with my mom, sisters, and niece, hopefully sometime this week. It has been so long since we've gotten the time to play games that we'll probably spend half the time re-learning the rules!
2009 Christmas family_4x4 (Large)

This is one of our "official" family photos. I just noticed, after sending this out to several friends and family, that at first glance it almost looks like Ethan's left hand has grown to gigantic proportions-- and then you (hopefully) realize that it's actually my hand, resting on Joel's knee. Go ahead, look again; kind of freaky, isn't it? :)

Sunday, December 27, 2009


I apologize for not posting for so long. First, we had the busy days of preparing for Ethan's birthday party/our family holiday party on December 19th... then, that same week, we had a pretty scary medical event take place. On Thursday the 17th I dropped Ethan off with his grandparents and aunt for a couple of hours so that we could have some baby-free time together, a not-so-common occurrence that we take full advantage of when we get the chance. We had just returned from getting a pizza and a movie to watch, when I got a phone call from my mom, stating that she thought my dad was having a heart attack and needed me to come over right away. I thought she meant to get the baby, but instead they wanted me to drive him over the five or so blocks to the hospital. Well, when I got there, he didn't seem to be having heart problems-- instead, he was feeling dizzy and weak, and was feeling numbness all down his left side. It was pretty clear that he was probably not having a heart attack at all, but rather a stroke. It was very scary to think about what might be happening, and how this was going to affect my dad-- such a vital, active, healthy man, who dearly prized his independence.

Anyhow... I'll write more on the story later, but that's why the blog has been so empty of late. My dad is doing much better and is in recovery right now at a rehab hospital in town, and the rest of us are doing our best to support him and my mom while they figure out what's happening now. Meanwhile, I still have to write on Ethan's party, the Ugly Christmas Sweater party, and so much more. Until then, happy holidays!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

One Year Old!

I can hardly believe the time has passed so quickly... My tiny, can hardly figure out how to drink from a bottle, not gaining weight quickly enough, eensy beensy baby is now a one-year-old. He walks, he talks, he dances, he climbs and points and babbles, he eats real food and plays games and does all of those simple but amazing things that babies do when they start to grow up-- and it's hard to believe how happy that makes me. Sometimes I wonder if I'm doing things right; are we watching too much Baby Einstein? Are we playing enough, and stimulating his brain adequately? Did I read to him long enough, and am I teaching him how to brush his teeth the right way? There are so many ways that we as parents can find ourselves not measuring up to this mythical standard of greatness.

In earlier times, I wonder, did parents worry so much about these developmental milestones? I doubt it. And I hardly think it mattered, either; it wasn't in the last year, the last decade, or even the last century that we produced such outstanding people as Michelangelo, da Vinci, Aristotle, Shakespeare, and the minds that designed the pyramids. Not that I'm expecting our son to be a genius or a visionary who changes the course of history. No, I just want simple things for him: To be genuine, caring, balanced, healthy, and positive; to have the courage to pursue his dreams, and the endurance to see them through; and, of course, to have the blessing of love and friendship in his life. Is there more I could wish for him? Probably, but I think that's a good start. :)

Happy birthday to my darling, precious boy, who went from this...
2008 Christmas family photo

to this, in just one year. You're still our favorite Christmas gift. I love you!
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Monday, December 14, 2009

The Wean

So, I've finally come to the conclusion that it's time to start the weaning process. Ethan sits up well, eats solid food, likes to use his spoon to "feed" himself (kind of), and is turning one year old this week. To all intents and purposes, he is ready to be off the bottle. But am I ready? That's the real question... How many parents admit that they don't wean their child off of the bottle because they don't want to lose those precious moments of holding and cuddling their baby while he drinks his milk? I'm not necessarily proud of myself, but I do love those times we spend together, when he holds my fingers while I hold the bottle... even though he never really looks at me like they describe in those parenting magazines, with that wide-eyed gaze that looks straight into your soul-- I always wanted that, but he just isn't an eye-contact-while-drinking kind of kid.

Anyway, even without the eye contact, it is a special, intimate, snuggly time for both of us, and I'm not sure how I'm going to do without it. As for Ethan, he is really struggling with the switch over to a sippy cup. It might be partially because he usually takes his formula/bottle warm, while the whole milk is cold from the fridge. Should I be warming his milk now, too? Should I be leaving his formula cold-ish so that he starts getting used to the temperature change? Should I stop asking so many questions and just go with my gut? Tune in next week, same time, for the jaw-dropping answers! (Or maybe not.)

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Poem: Soul in Flight

Another poem from a few years ago... I really need to start writing again. Soon, I tell you, very soon.


"soul in flight"

into the air
up past the trees
i spy on little birds
and laugh at the people
down below

the atmosphere
is cold up here
and the quiet
is almost frightening,
like a silent film
without subtitles

the clouds
breeze past
like somnolent cows
not even sparing
a condescending glance
for my giddy smile

the ground
is far from me
for the moment
and i will soar, gladly
deep into the horizon
for as long as i can

up into space
and out of myself
the world seems
clearer, somehow
from a blue distance

and it even appears
that this,
whatever this is,
is no daydream
borne from my own
aching solitude...

but, real or not,
i can only believe
up here, with the
other creatures that fly,
with those who reject
solid practicality

far from the dirty sidewalks
and grumbling souls
of anchored things,
i can dream,
and in dreaming~
soaring, spinning, floating, flying~

i wake, and live.

© M.S.E.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Hard Freeze

The weather is crazy cold right now! Yesterday and today, in Modesto of all places, the low temp was in the 20's. The weather stations even warned of possible snow flurries-- in Modesto!-- yesterday. I haven't lived in this area all that long, compared to some of the families we know, but I have never been here when it was going to snow. How cool would that be? Don't get me wrong; I don't necessarily want to live surrounded by several feet of snow for the entire winter, but it would be cool to just once have a white winter. Or am I asking too much, living in central California? Maybe instead I should just focus on having peppermint hot chocolates, listening to Christmas music, and bundling up with my baby. Yeah, that should take the edge off a bit. :)

Friday, December 4, 2009


Ethan started saying "mamamama" this week. It's not like they show in the movies, where a baby looks up at you with these angelic eyes and says "Mama" with a sort of wonder and joy that transcends words. No, it's more of a process than that. First, they start sort of babbling the syllables that you want to hear, then, they babble them while looking at you or when they want you, and then, slowly, they figure out that it's only the two repetitions that you need-- Dada, or Mama-- and then you're golden. So far, he's starting to get that the dada sound goes with Joel and the mamamama sound gets my attention the fastest. He will even say dada by itself, which is cool, but has just barely started on the mama's. Still... it's the sweetest thing ever, and I'm thrilled.

He also just started with another word. My parents have a cat that Ethan is enthralled with right now. He follows her around the house like she's the best thing in the world, and she tries to keep just a step or two out of reach the whole time. Sometimes, we fool her by holding him in our lap and calling her over so that he can pet her from the relative safety of an adult's body-zone, and he absolutely loves it. We call her so much that he decided to do it the other day-- "Ki-ki" and even, once or twice, "Ki-di"-- how awesome is that? He's calling the kitty! I know, I know, a minor event to be so happy about, but I warned everyone earlier that I could very easily turn into one of those obnoxiously easy-to-please parents who just has to tell everyone about junior's little accomplishments. Except that this is such a big accomplishment that it only makes sense for me to tell the world, right? Uh, right?

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Pre-Yard Sale Book Heist

My mom is planning to rid the household of the accumulated debris from various homes over the past thirty years. What we can't sell, we'll either donate or take to the dump. My minimalist heart is absolutely singing with joy at the prospects of a nearly empty garage... even though it's at my parents' house, not mine. It will be the project of a lifetime to get my husband on board with my agenda, and stop keeping everything he comes across. "But I could use that!" is the common complaint when I start rooting through the piles and boxes and containers that people haven't seen in years. Well, if you could use it, then why don't you? If it's not seasonal, then why is it sitting out in storage? There are certain things that don't get used often but also shouldn't get thrown away, of course; specific tools, for instance, or childhood keepsakes. But there is really no reason to keep the amount of useless stuff that most of us have piling up in our homes. I'd much rather do a clean sweep several times a year and keep the clutter to a minimum, instead of live amongst boxes and bags or stuff I never even look at, let alone miss.

So anyway, because of the yard sale, we're going through a bunch of the boxes that have been there since my parents moved-- not this time, the *last* time-- and I found a few treasures. For instance, I grabbed the following books to read through the next time I get a few minutes to myself:

-- The Last Lecture, by Randy Pausch.
Can't wait to read this one and use up a whole box of tissue at the same time. At least it's motivating, though!

-- A Stir of Echoes, by Richard Matheson.
I loved the movie by the same name, so I wonder what the book will do differently...

-- Eats Shoots & Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation, by Lynne Truss.
This one is purely for the nerd in me. Grammar is sort of my secret super-power.

-- The Conversation Piece 2, by Bret Nicholaus and Paul Lowrie.
I enjoyed all of the little questions and conversation starters the last time I read it, and wonder how our answers will change this time.

And, of course, because I'm a total grown-up, The Ultimate Adult Only Joke Book. You know, just to improve my vocabulary and such. ;)

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Food: Turkey Tortilla Soup

So, can you still call it tortilla soup if you make it sans tortillas? Either way, I had to come up with something to use up at least a little of our Thanksgiving leftovers. The soup was so simple to make, and so flavorful-- a bit spicy, even. Here's what I did: I heated up a pot at medium heat on the stove, then sauteed about half of a chopped onion (plus ~1 Tbsp. minced garlic) in butter. After the onion was translucent, I added 4 cups of chicken broth, 1 cup of hominy, about 1 cup of shredded turkey, 1 can of diced tomatoes with green chilies, 1-2 Tbsp. of diced jalapenos, some salt, and 1-2 tsp. cumin. Then, the secret ingredient: a packet of dry enchilada mix. You could have used the wet enchilada sauce in the can, but my pantry is sadly lacking and the dry mix was all I had available. I let all of that simmer for about half an hour, then added about 1/3 cup chopped cilantro and about 1/4 cup milk.

Side note: You may have noticed the number of times I say "about" in this recipe; that's because so much of what I do while cooking involves just eyeing the measurements and making do with what I have in the cupboard or fridge. It would be great to have every ingredient necessary at all times, but that's more of a "Someday..." type of scenario. For right now, our motto is MAKE DO!-- and make it good.

Anyhow: After about 5 minutes, just long enough to heat everything through and make sure the flavors were melding, I took the soup off the stove and served it with shredded cheese and some more fresh cilantro on top, plus a generous squeeze of lime. It was so delicious! Spicy, kind of creamy, and full of the earthy warmth only tomato-based sauces seem to impart to a dish. I can't wait to try it with maybe a green and a red enchilada sauce, this time the liquid kind, and some additional toppings: crunchy tortilla strips, avocado slices, sour cream. I'm salivating already!

Monday, November 30, 2009

Gym Jam

I finally made a decision: I'm going back to the gym. It's not really a difficult decision to make; I actually enjoy going to the gym, working out, and getting fit. So it isn't really that I have to convince myself to get up and go-- it's the childcare issue. About six months ago, before getting my layoff notice (perfect timing!), we signed contracts to join In-Shape. Unfortunately, we joined the only In-Shape in Modesto that doesn't have childcare facilities. And we're now locked in to a contract that can't be broken. So for the past few months, I haven't been able to go at all, merely because I can't seem to find a sitter for Ethan. Joel's busy with work or studying all the time, and I don't want to ask my parents or friends to start a scheduled babysitting job.

I was at the point of considering hiring a sitter so that I could go the gym three times a week, when it finally hit me: It would cost less to just increase my membership to the level where I can attend any of the In-Shape clubs in the city, so that I can use the childcare services there while I work out. Not only does it make it easier because I can just bring him with me and be able to check in on him if I need to, but it also means that I don't have to impose on friends or family for this fairly big responsibility. So I went ahead and did it this morning. Later today we'll be hitting the nearest In-Shape to check out their kids' area, and start getting Ethan used to the childcare system. Personally, I think he'll love it. He is so interested in kids right now, and fearless when it comes to meeting new people. I am really looking forward to this. While I get some "me" time and can start getting to where I want to be physically, he gets play dates with other kids. How cool is that? It's a win-win!

Thursday, November 26, 2009


Things I'm thankful for...
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* my son, born healthy and happy despite the emergency room scares and the placental abruption-- he is now almost one year old and going strong; thank you for being such a beacon of joy and hope and for giving me a reason to stand up and stay strong
* my husband, still with me through thick and thin, and it's been mighty thin of late; thank you for staying by my side even when I'm crabby (or worse) and for keeping up your positive spirits-- one of us needs to, in order to keep this ship sailing forward instead of sinking in the pits of despair
* my mother, who is becoming an even dearer friend than I could have imagined, and who is (of course) an excellent grandmother; thank you for your unconditional love
* my father and sisters, for their loving devotion to their grandson/nephew; thank you for surrounding us with support and for always being there when we need you
* my best friend JS, and the way she has stepped with every fiber of her self into being an amazing auntie; thank you for ten years and counting of a friendship that I just couldn't imagine living without
* my new friends T & T, and the way they are showing me how to become a woman I can be proud of
* a great circle of "adopted" relatives, including a very dear "nana" and "papa," several aunties & uncles, and other assorted friends who have invited us to share their lives and join their extended families
* my healthy body and sound mind, at least for the moment; for recovering so well from my accident a few years ago that I can move my hips enough to dance to Lady Gaga, not even think about using my walker to chase a toddler around the house, and watch the leaves change color without worrying about my neck brace
* Beringer Chenin Blanc, for being a lovely little cheap white wine I can sip on a regular basis, and Castello di Amore Cabernet Sauvignon for being one of the best wines I've ever had
* Hulu, for providing me with instant access to SNL and other TV shows that I otherwise wouldn't be able to access because we don't have cable
* speaking of Hulu, I'm thankful for the internet!
* Cotswold Double Gloucester Cheese with Chives & Onion
* Autumn

The list could go on and on, but I think you get the point. Thank you for everything I've been given. Even the yucky stuff. I may not understand why right now, but I'm sure there's a point to it. :)

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Birthday Blues

Just hit the big 3-7, and boy, let me tell ya-- it just doesn't seem right that I'm already this old. I certainly don't *feel* old, so how can I actually be this close to middle-aged? Some days, it feels like I'm the same person I was back in high school. Other days, when my hip is creaking or my knees are popping or my shoulder starts to hurt, I wonder if I'm closer to 70 than 40. I know that part of it is that I feel a mounting sense of frustration that we are stuck in this rut of joblessness and constantly being on the edge of being homeless because of our ever-dwindling incomes. It's funny what having very little cash flow does to your lifestyle. It's funny because we are actually surviving on less than half of what we had coming in before, but it really changes your definition of "survival" and your wants versus needs list. For instance: I *want* a new pair of underwear for the first time in over a year, but I *need* to buy baby food. I *want* to fix the car heater/AC, but I *need* to pay rent. And so on, and so forth. You just start doing without so many things that it becomes second nature.

And this is not because I'm frugal-- which I am-- but because we have no other choice. Frugality doesn't mean that you neglect your car maintenance in order to save a few bucks, because you know that it'll end up costing you more down the line. Frugality doesn't mean that you wait until the day you run out of baby formula to buy more because you're too broke to stock up, because really planning ahead can save you a lot more money (by doing things like buying in bulk on eBay). I think that even if we were someday independently wealthy, I would still be frugal-- I just wouldn't have to be cheap anymore.

My birthday wish is that soon we won't have to live paycheck to paycheck-- or in this case, unemployment check to unemployment check. Cross your fingers for me.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Thanksgiving Plans

So, I'm going to two different Thanksgiving celebrations, and I'm starting to get things organized so that I bring the right dishes to the right house. It helps to have a list, but I have two-- time to stop, collaborate and listen.

Thanksgiving #1: I'll be helping a friend prepare a Bacon-Cheddar Baguette, Sweet & Spicy Meatballs, and Spinach-Artichoke Stuffed Tomatoes for her family's celebration on Thursday. I'll also be helping her set up the house before everyone gets there, so that means some serious girl time on Wednesday. Meaning, of course, some cooking, some interior decorating, and some martinis while watching the hot-hot-hot Gerard Butler in "The Ugly Truth." Can't wait!

Thanksgiving #2: This is going to be the tougher one. I'm preparing the turkey, gravy, Sausage-Cranberry Stuffing, Cranbery Chutney, Checkerboard Rolls, and a dessert-- still haven't decided which one yet. Might be pumpkin cheesecake, might be mini-apple pies, might be both. Sounds like the whole meal, right? Well, one of my sisters is actually doing the potatoes, candied yams, and another side dish, while my mom is doing her own veggie dishes, a pumpkin pie, and (hopefully) drinks. I actually defrosted the turkey way too early, so I am going to have to cook it tomorrow and then probably defrost another one to cook for Saturday. Talk about doubling my work load! Oh, well. At least I'll have cooked turkey ready for the freezer, to use for a million other meals throughout the winter.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Poem: Home

This is a poem I wrote while working at the junior high school I had the privilege to be a part of for seven years. It even got published in our school district's poetry anthology, and I was asked to read it at the celebration event. Of course, I blushed and mumbled my way through it, and every picture shows me practically curled up into my paper, but hey-- at least I did it, right? I have this ongoing pledge to myself that one day, someday, eventually, I will stand up and read my poetry at one of those "open to the public" poetry slams they have here in town. So far, no dice. Maybe next year, at Burning Man, will be the right time... who knows? Til then, it'll have to stay on paper and on this blog.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -


each day, as i cross campus,
the seagulls cry plaintively
and whirl overhead
they bring the scent of the ocean with them
and memories of water
glinting on the white-crested waves
from other, brighter times…

they are far from home
like me, like you
like so many of our students
yet they gather here for comfort,
circle and dive and float on the winter breeze
waiting for the absent tide to roll in...
       and who’s to say otherwise?
       who will break the news
       that we live in a cemented valley
       of sidewalks and malls
       with nary a coastline to
       delight the lonesome eye…

perhaps they have it right
to soar, and hear the rhythmic tide
to see the ocean in our football field
to dive for fish near the gopher holes
to chatter with friends about the mysterious sea
and dream of a place they’ve never even seen…
       perhaps they are the wise ones
       to see beyond the hole in the fence
       to a world of beaches and dunes
       to cry a song of longing and hope
       with an echo that cuts through
       this despair, so darkly familiar…

and so each day, as i cross campus
their cries overhead are a beckoning
to remember that we began
in a grand, amazing, ocean of dreams
and can find home again,
or for the first time
we, the lost children of atlantis

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Ugly Christmas Sweater Party

Yes, we've been invited to a Christmas party... except that we are supposed to wear the ugliest Christmas sweaters we can find, which adds that special something to the festivities. Joel and I went on a hunt of our local second-hand stores for the goods, and found these beauties.

Here's Joel's sweater; the "lights" on the tree are 3-D and sparkly:
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I'm also going to add these little bell things to the shoulders as epaulets...
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And this lovely cardigan is mine:
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The design continues around the back as well. And check out the buttons-- they're little Christmas lights.
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How awesome are those sweaters? I mean, *bad* awesome, of course. I hope they're giving out prizes at this party, because I think we have a couple of doozies here. At first, we weren't sure where to find the right kind of sweaters. When we looked online, we uncovered the strange truth: Ugly Christmas Sweater parties are a growing trend, it seems. You can google it for proof, or just start your wondrous journey through the phenomenon at this site.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Eleven Months Old!

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I really can't believe how quickly time is flying this year... it seems only moments ago I was pregnant, and then holding a tiny newborn in my arms, and now... well, now he is almost a little boy, already. He's taking independent steps, walking up to five feet at a time without assistance and without falling over. He's not quite talking yet, but is babbling up a storm, and I can just tell that any minute he'll bust out into speech. We're starting to teach him baby signs, so hopefully that will help with the whole communication angle until he can get a better grasp of spoken language. I'm also starting to plan out what to do for his first birthday, in less than a month.

One plan is to make a slideshow-DVD chronicling the pregnancy and the past year of his life. The problem is, how do I find the time? Being a stay-at-home mom of a toddler means that you are almost constantly moving, or otherwise engaged with your child. There doesn't seem to be enough time to do the things I *need* to do around the house, like clean or cook or keep the yard from looking derelict. How am I supposed to squeeze in time for creative projects, even those that are so close to my heart, like poetry and scrapbooking? And blogging... this is such a rarety, to have a few moments to spare on my computer. I lunge at them and devour the time, because I know it will not last. Sort of like life, I guess... and there's the baby, calling out for me, so off I go!

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Chick Flicks

We just got finished watching Love Actually, a film I really enjoy, when I realized that we own very few chick flicks. I mean, our typical DVD purchase is something like Batman Begins, Tropic Thunder, or even the latest seasons of The Venture Brothers or Flight of the Conchords. We own very, very few romantic comedies, mostly because I'm not a huge fan. Looking through our cabinets, I can find certain "girl"-oriented films like Chocolat, which is of course brilliant and beautiful and a sweet fairy tale of a movie, and also The Royal Tenenbaums, one of my all-time favorites. There is Twelfth Night, a lovely update of Shakespeare's comedy, and A Couch in New York, also based on a play, and.... uh.... not much else in terms of movies marketed directly to females, and particularly as romantic comedies or romantic dramas.

Does that make me an atypical girl, this dearth of chick flicks? Does looking through my DVD collection reveal hidden truths about me? Do I have to give back my "woman" card now? Don't get me wrong-- I enjoyed watching movies like The Proposal and 27 Dresses, but it just isn't my first choice when we go to the theater. Or, um, rent DVDs. Or, well, borrow movies from friends and family.


Okay, fine, I admit it. I'm a dude.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Food: Calico Clams

One of my *favorite* things in the entire world is appetizers. Baked, cold, frozen, room temp, fried... pretty much anything that is bite-size and can be eaten without using utensils, if at all possible. I love hors d'eouvres, I thrill to tiny, kid-sized bites, I get ecstatic over finger food. Do you get the picture? It's my not-so-secret weakness. In fact, I recently told my husband that I'm going to be making appetizers for dinner for the rest of the month. There are two reasons: One, we're already planning on a huge, regular meal for Thanksgiving, so why not spice it up with some small meals before then? Two, I want to start trying out possibilities for parties and potlucks, and isn't it better to test it out at home *before* you have to bring the dish to a big group of people? Joel is now my guinea pig and assistant taste-tester. And our first big success this week was an adaptation of a recipe I found in a 2009 Taste of Home publication called "Appetizers for Every Occasion." (It's also my new favorite "cookbook" by the way.)

Here it is!

Calico Clams
- 3 cans (6.5 oz each) minced clams
- 1 cup (4 oz) shredded part-skim mozzarella
>>> Note: I substituted creamy havarti for the mozzarella.
- 1 cup (4 oz) shredded cheddar
>>> Note: I substituted colby-jack for the cheddar.
- 4 bacon strips, cooked and crumbled
- 3 Tbsp seasoned bread crumbs
>>> Note: Being without bread crumbs, I instead crushed some seasoned croutons and also added about 2-3 tsp. of the garlic-lemon-rosemary "Crusting Blends" seasoning. Yum!
- 3 Tbsp butter, melted
- 2 Tbsp *each* diced onion, celery, and sweet bell peppers (red, yellow, orange, green-- any combo)
- 1 garlic clove, minced

1) Drain clams, reserving 2 Tbsp. juice. (You can freeze the rest of the juice and use for making clam chowder, later.) In large bowl, combine clams and remaining ingredients; stir in reserved clam juice.

Option 1: Spoon into small ramekins and place on baking sheets; bake at 350-F for 10-15 minutes or til heated through.

Option 2: Spoon into hollowed cremini (brown or small portabella) mushroom caps and place on baking sheet that has been covered with parchment paper; bake at 350-F for 10-15 minutes or til heated through.

This concoction was a huge hit at our house, but we prefer the idea of Option 2 above; scooping the clam mixture out of the ramekins was just extra work (and made for extra clean-up, too!). Can't wait to have this one again!

Friday, November 6, 2009

The Blogs of Change

I'm thinking of trying out a new format to keep things interesting. Once a week, I'd like to have a "foodie day" where I discuss recipes, restaurants, cooking tips, and so on. I love food, and I love cooking, so I thought it would be nice to include this side of myself on here. I'm also thinking of having one day a week for "entertainment" related topics: reviews of movies, books, music, websites, etc. Originally I had planned a much more rigid schedule, with Mondays for this topic and Tuesdays for that topic, but I figured that would be a little too restrictive for now. Maybe later I'll change things up again, and designate certain days for specific items, but for now I just want to make sure I include other interests of mine and keep this blog from turning into an Ethan-only blog. :)

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Halloween at Farmer's Market

We took Ethan down to the Modesto Certified Farmer's Market on Saturday morning, and had a great time parading him around with all of the other dressed up kids. Joel and I were two of maybe five parents who dressed up with their kids, which I think is very sad-- pathetic, even. What are we teaching our kids when we can't get creative and brave and imaginative with them? We should be able to dress up, act weird, be silly, play games, and have fun with our kids; how else are they going to learn how to be a fully rounded person as they grow up? I mean, that is one of the things I loved about Burning Man-- the chance to play dress up, play pretend, put on a character or personality trait along with my costume, and try on a different persona for a day or an hour. It's really quite liberating.

Anyway, back to Ethan: His costume was, of course, adorable. I wish they'd had the costume parade a little earlier, though, because by the time 10:00 rolled around he was so tired from missing his nap (usually around 9:00/9:30) that he was not having fun at all. Oh well; at least we got some great pictures of him as a little monster. I mean, *dressed up* as a little monster. ;)

Our little monster, with his cowboy dad
We met a dog, and Ethan wanted to make friends. Quickly.
I'm the pirate wench, feeding Ethan some spinach bolani. The Afghani cooks who bring their amazing sauces (creamy garlic, sweet jalapeno) and delicious bolani (pumpkin, potato, or spinach-stuffed lavash) are probably my second-favorite vendors. Next to our bakery friends, who have the most mouth-watering chocolate-zucchini bread and pumpkin bread in the world. No, really. It's true.
Who can resist this little monster? He's my favorite!

Wednesday, November 4, 2009


This kid is cute, no question. But it's tough to get him to focus on the camera when there are other kids around. We took him to a pumpkin patch on Friday and had a mini photo shoot. It was almost impossible to get a shot of him looking at us, because there were so many other little ones running around that he was completely distracted the whole time. There was one little girl in particular who was entranced with Ethan, and kept coming over to stand right in front of him, just staring and reaching out but never quite touching him. Is this how early it starts? I can see we'll have our hands full. But as long as he sticks with kissing pumpkins, we'll be fine.


Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Outside... does it get any better?

This kid *loves* being outside. If he is ever upset, we just take him outside and boom! Crying fit ends, immediately. He'd play out there for hours, if his parents (ahem) would let him. As it is, it's more tiring than you'd think to be out there with him, because it's amazing how many things in our yard he can find to shove down his gullet. And because we're renting, we can't really do too much about getting rid of the cactus garden (ack!) or other major kid hazards out there. Until he gets over the oral-fixation stage and stops sticking everything he can get his hands on into his mouth, we just have to keep extra close when he plays outside.

Okay, maybe not *that* close. The good thing about his love for the outdoors is that it gets me out of the house. It's very easy to get caught up in just sitting here in the house. I've got my computer, my job search, my laundry and dishes and cooking and other household chores, and it all adds up to a lot of time indoors. Having him helps bring me out into the daylight, which I guess is good for you. Last week we took him out and were watching him stand and toddle around the yard.

Sounds boring, right? Well, color me lame, then, because I actually found it quite enjoyable. But then I've been slowing down a little lately, trying to savor every moment with him because I know how quickly they pass. It seems like only yesterday that I was tucking him into my shirt to keep him close to my skin, and now he is practically running around the house. He hardly seems like a baby anymore, but is looking more and more like a little boy. I think I'll cry when he starts talking... is it going to be like this for the rest of our lives? This joy mixed with melancholy, this attempt to record the present while memories run constantly in the background? It's like having a radio on in the kitchen and trying to watch a movie in the living room; how can I separate out the past I love, so that I can enjoy the present without feeling a sense of loss for what has been?


Monday, November 2, 2009

Slideshow Time!

So, in case you hadn't noticed, I decided to add a slideshow to the blog. If you click on the picture (the "play" button), you can check out the pictures I loaded onto You can also click on the little button on the bottom-right of the slideshow box to enlarge the photos-- it'll expand to fill your computer screen. To keep things current, I'll be putting the most recent pictures in first, in reverse order, so that you'll start off with "now" and then go backwards in time to the pregnancy. Eventually, I'll figure out how to load video onto the blog, and that's when things are really going to kick off. Heh, heh... yeah.

Anyway, remember that you can sign in as a "friends and family" member and then get updates sent to your email, for those of you who just can't wait for the latest and greatest updates from yours truly. You can also leave comments on the blog if you wish (hint hint), beg for pictures, suggest specific topics, request recipes, or whatever you wish. Interact! Get involved! Participation is the name of the blogging game. (Or something.)

Friday, October 30, 2009


Sometimes it's hard not to be completely overwhelmed by circumstances, no matter how well prepared you think you are or how rational you try to be about the situation. I've been seeing previews of the movie "2012" lately, and it has actually raised the same questions that I always ask of myself when watching these end-of-the-world, apocalyptic movies. The question is this: In the face of what is probably an inescapable doom, would I fight to survive, or just curl up and let it wash over me? It may seem obvious that the answer is to fight and struggle and keep going until your last breath; but is it, really? Remember when you were young, and playing chase or hide-and-seek could get downright scary because you just knew, deep down in your heart, that someone was coming after you-- inexorably, inescapably, unavoidably-- and that sooner or later they would catch you? Remember how it filled you with terror at times, and that there were moments when you just wanted to jump out of your hiding place and say "I'm here!" or stop running and let them catch you? That's sometimes what I think I might do when faced with overwhelming odds. A world-destroying quake in 2012, a world-ending freeze in Day After Tomorrow, a world-changing invasion in Apocalypto; would I be the heroic type who does everything imaginable to get to safety and keep loved ones close as well? Or would I be the girl from Last of the Mohicans who, seeing a future of captivity and brutality, steps off the edge of a cliff? I'd like to think I'd go for the first option, but I sometimes wonder if I'm just too fatalistic for a situation that seems all but hopeless. Then again, that's kind of what life feels like right now, what with our income dropping to below $2000/month for two adults and a toddler-- and that's before taxes-- and I still haven't given up. My spirit hasn't broken yet. Cracked a little, maybe; but not broken. /:)

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Waving Madness

Another milestone was hit last weekend: Ethan started waving bye-bye. We were at my parents' house, and my mom said "Bye bye, Ethan" while waving at him. Out of the blue, he just starts waving his right hand at her. We've been working with him on it for the past month or two, and he finally made the connection this weekend. How cool was that?

Oh, and we are hitting a really bad teething session right now. His gums have actually started bleeding a few times, which was scary to see. I'm probably going to start rubbing his gums with a damp cloth to help ease those teeth through, and help provide some comfort for him as well. Hopefully he lets me stick my finger in his mouth, as he has been very reluctant to let anyone near his teeth for the past few days. And no wonder!

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Walker, Texas Walker

Last weekend, we hit a milestone. Ethan started walking! Well, toddling, really, but still-- it was awesome. We sat a few feet away from each other and sent him back and forth between us over and over again, just thrilled at his ability to keep balanced while taking those three or four steps alone. He was so excited about it, too. Sometimes he would get so excited that he would topple right over, but usually he would manage to keep upright long enough to get to one of us. We even got it on video; once I can figure out how to post that stuff on here, I'll get it going. I'm so happy for him; he has been really frustrated lately at his inability to get around the way he wants to-- by walking-- and I think that once he masters this, he'll be having tons of fun in no time. And by fun, of course, I mean that he'll be coming up with new and creative ways to get into every bit of trouble available in this house. Can't wait!

Tuesday, October 27, 2009


We're trying to slowly introduce a wider variety of solid foods into Ethan's diet, so that eventually he can start relying less and less on milk as his main source of food. So far, we have sporadic luck. He usually prefers to eat what we're eating, so I've pretty much stopped buying baby food. Very rarely, he'll eat a container of fruit, but he typically pushes anything pureed away immediately. One thing he definitely loves, just like his mama, is mangoes. He can't get enough of those bad boys! A friend of ours just gave us a bunch of ripe mango slices, and I'm pretty sure they'll be wiped out by the end of the week.

The funny thing is, it's actually difficult for *us* to get used to feeding him solids. It is obviously a lot easier to just give him a bottle and be done with it. Taking out regular food, dicing it up, making sure it's warm enough but not too warm, being careful about the salt content, and then working with him on getting said food into his mouth is all a lot of work. The thing that I keep trying to explain to his other parent is that there is an end goal here: Ethan being able to feed himself. Ethan being able to eat a regular meal of solids and liquids. Ethan growing up to be a self-sufficient child and adult. Maybe I should make a few motivational posters, or something, to keep our eyes on the prize. ;)

Here's one of our latest attempts at feeding. He pushed the spoon away several times, so I just gave him the food on my fingers. He makes these hilarious faces when he first tastes the food, but then he chews and swallows and opens up for more. It's like, "What is this crazy, strange-smelling, weird-tasting, oddly-textured stuff you're trying to shove in my face? Wait a second-- give me some more!!"


Friday, October 23, 2009

Sleep, I Miss You

Last night, there was a coup. The days (weeks, months) of waking up a couple of times a night to tend to the baby's needs are now over. There's a new sheriff in town, and she is severely sleep-deprived and taking no prisoners. The inspiration came from this article: Rituals to Help Baby Sleep Through the Night. Although a good friend (K!) also told me the same thing in early August. Tee-hee!

Ethan was doing fine, sleeping through the night, for a few months before we went on our ten-day camping trip in August. Since then, he has been waking up at least once, if not several times a night, and we usually end up going in and giving him a bottle once or twice a night. Even with that, his sleep is restless and noisy, and he hardly seems to get any real rest anymore. Just like us. Well, those days are over. Not only is it wrong to comfort him with food, but it's not helping him sleep-- it might actually be making it worse. He needs to learn how to get himself back to sleep on his own, self-soothe when he gets upset or wakes up a little, and that way he can finally get a full night of rest.

Last night was the first in what will probably be a very long week of trying to get all of us accustomed to the new regime. Under this plan, we are no longer going to give bottles in the night, unlesss there is absolutely no other way. We are no longer going to run in at every whimper or cry and pick up the baby. No, no, no. Instead, we'll go in and check on him, make sure he's not cold or wet or hurt, and then comfort him for a few moments before going back to our room. I'll do that a couple of times, with longer and longer intervals between going into his room. Last night was a bit rough, because he woke up every hour crying out for us, but he really only cried for a couple of minutes before tiring himself out and going back to sleep. In fact, I only went into his room once because he fell asleep so quickly afterwards. And then he slept until 8:00 a.m., which tells me he was exhausted.

So, although it may take a few days of sleepless nights on our part, eventually it'll work out to the benefit of the entire family. Which is why I support this new regime wholeheartedly. Carry on, Glorious Leader, we will follow!

PS-- This whole thing was pioneered by Dr. Ferber, so now we can say our house has been Ferberized. Or maybe we won't say that. Yeah, probably not a good idea.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Poem: Allness

This poem was written sometime earlier this year... for some reason, I didn't mark down a date when I wrote it, which is unlike me. Maybe my subconscious was leading me to focus on the timelessness of the feelings I expressed-- or maybe I just forgot. Either way, here it is.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

for j

i want to cultivate it for you
and plant it on the windowsill
nurture it carefully
with the tenderness i can’t seem to show my houseplants
watch you, watching it grow
struggling upward, outward, despite my tendencies to neglect…

i want to honor it for you
set up an altar in our home
create a ritual of tea and scones,
sitting and standing,
call and response,
write a hymn that exposes a hidden longing for reverence…

i want to color it for you
paint it in sprays of pastel, bursts of neon
set up special lighting and bright bulbs
and watch it send prisms
into every dark corner
a dancing masterpiece that exists completely outside the lines…

and yet…
i want to capture it, for me
wrap it in yellowed lace and lay it beneath pressed flowers,
bury it under layers of ancient quilts and place it in a keepsake chest,
slide the chest below the extra bed in the unused guest room,
and keep it there,

but all i can do
is offer it to you
minute by minute…
the allness
of the everythingness
of my love for you.

© M.S.E.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

My Favorite Scary Movies

Ghost Story-Scary:
Not a lot of gore, but some seriously good jump-in-your-seat scares. Play out like thrillers, with the tension rising right up to the end.
- The OthersThe Others Amazing ghost story, with plenty of great scares. Also,
bring your kleenex because there are some seriously sad parts.
- Stir of Echoes ACK! This one always leaves me jumpy. Creepy, scary, crazy, ants-in-your-pants ghost story.
- The Sixth Sense, Signs, UnbreakableI guess I just like most of M. Night Shyamalan's work, no matter what the critics say. Oh, and add in The Village to that list; might be predictable for some, but still has some good ghost story elements.

Less scary, more funny, but awesome movies. Gore is definitely present, but always done with a humorous slant.
- Shaun of the Dead Classic Simon Pegg humor, excellent satire of contemporary culture, and they even throw in some actual pathos (okay, I cried in one scene, sorry). Fu-nay stuff.
- Zombieland (in theaters now) Excellent movie, complete with deadpan humor, "Best Zombie Kill of the Week," narration by a nervous survivor with IBS, and great special effects. Fun for everyone, as long as you can stand the opening scenes with bloody carnage in slo-mo.

Some (or a lot of) gore, blood, mayhem. Not big on malicious torture, so you won't find that here. But you will definitely run across some seriously bloody scenes. Don't say I didn't warn you!
- 28 Days Later Virus in the UK = Horror gold in Hollywood. This movie rocks, shocks, and even raises philosophical questions for the viewer (what would *you* be willing to do?). Featuring Cillian Murphy in his first major blockbuster; he would later play the evil psychiatrist in Batman Begins.
- The Descent Women, a cave, spelunking, and vicious terrifying creatures on the prowl. Sounds like a great vacation to me! This one hits all your fears (claustrophobia, fear of heights, fear of the dark, fear of being eaten) at once.
- Dawn of the Dead I thought this remake was actually pretty good. Especially loved the Richard Cheese "lounge" version of 'Get Down with the Sickness.' Dark, gory, scares, even though it brings up the usual "Why would they do that? Are they stupid, or what?" horror movie questions.

And two you may not have heard of...
- Let The Right One In An awesome vampire movie from Sweden, this one is at the top of my list. Poignant, frightening, intense, and quite moving-- definitely watch it. Not for children, but features child actors (who are brilliant, by the way).
- Pontypool Definitely the thinking person's scary movie, this one is from Canada and 98% of the film takes place inside a radio studio. It's more about what happens in your head when horrible things start taking place around you... creepy.

Great; now I have the itch to go watch several of these before Halloween!

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Ten months and counting...

Just wanted to share the good news: My baby boy is ten months old! As of last week, heh heh... okay, so I'm a slacker. Don't worry, I won't mess up on the big one, December 15th. Anyway, here is my darling, sweet, precocious, curious, fun, energetic, loving, beautiful boy:


How did I get so lucky?

(PS-- Check out that adorable chin; I love it to pieces!)

Monday, October 19, 2009

How to Choke

So, Joel saved my life the other day. No, seriously, he did. He literally saved my life, right there in our humble little kitchen next to the 1970s push-button stovetop and surrounded by stylish wood paneling. It was c-r-a-z-y. And yet avoidable. I think I might have been in the process of being punished for trying to secretly gorge on butterscotch chips, because lo and behold those little suckers tried to kill me.

Basically, it goes like this: I was in the kitchen by myself, searching for a few spices for the recipe I was about to prepare, when my wandering hands stumbled upon a hidden treasure trove of pure sugary joy. It turned out to be about a quarter of a bag of butterscotch chips... exactly what I wanted that muggy afternoon to feed my sweet tooth. I tossed several chips in my mouth and began chewing, when for some unknown reason I sort of coughed/inhaled, which had the unfortunate effect of sucking that gluey mass of half-chewed butterscotch chips directly into the wrong pipe. I immediately went into evasive actions, or in other words started to make things worse.

I'm not sure why, but I couldn't stop myself from trying to swallow that sucker, and of course it not only didn't work, but actually made it even harder to breathe. Which I wasn't exactly doing, at that point; more of a gasping, loud, wheezing intake with no exhalation. I was starting to panic, walking in circles around the kitchen, when I realized I was in major trouble and somehow managed to squeak out "Joel!" on one of my inhales. He ran in the room and within about 10 seconds was giving me the Heimlich. It was so awesome! After around three tries, he finally dislodged the offending sugar bomb, and I started coughing for what seemed like the next hour but was probably more like five minutes. I went over and splashed water into my mouth to help ease the pain in my throat, and ended up splashing it all over my face and neck, too. My skin was burning, and I was red and sweating and exhausted from the whole ordeal. I couldn't believe how fast my heart was pounding, and what a close call that had been.

Although I started feeling better very quickly, I couldn't actually breathe normally for about half an hour. For the next couple of days my throat was painfully sore, and I coughed throughout the night (sleep deprivation is my constant companion these days, no matter the cause). But all's well that ends well, and I can now truthfully say that my husband saved my life. I guess that means I owe him, or something. ;)

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Mini-vacations RULE!!

Last weekend, we were lucky enough to visit San Francisco with some friends, and even luckier to get it all courtesy of one very generous young lady. It was the hardest thing I've ever done, to accept her paying for everything; there were several moments where I didn't think I'd be able to do it! But eventually she prevailed, and made it clear that she wasn't accepting no for an answer, and we moved on to just planning how we could return the favor in the future.


Anyway-- while we were there, we were able to get dinner at Colibri, the same restaurant we dined at after our elopement/wedding in 2007. The food is gorgeous! Our favorites are the Pescado del Dia (fish in a green garlic sauce with chorizo and sauteed vegetables) and the Filete Mignon (steak topped with an ancho chile stuffed with goat cheese, over mashed potatoes). YUM!!! They also make a mean tortilla soup, and their chorizo con queso is delish. Oh, and I do love their hand-rolled tortillas and three dipping sauces, too.

We also got to visit another place we love in the City: The Rex, on Polk Street. They have the best French Onion Soup around, and a cozy, neighborhood vibe that makes for a great Sunday meal. I can't wait to give their Eggs Hollandaise a try-- they looked absolutely scrumptious. The bartender makes a nice 'n spicy Bloody Mary, too, with the added touch of pickled green beans on the side. Later that day, we visited our favorite Haight Street pub, Hobson's Choice. It has such a great ambience, the perfect music playing in the background, and huge windows for a lazy afternoon of people-watching.

All in all, it was a great little mini-vacation: we had great meals, a great weekend, and were in our favorite city. Can't wait to return the favor sometime in the future!

Friday, October 16, 2009

Solid Food Adventures

It has been several weeks since Ethan started his latest round of teething (his 7th & 8th teeth are in now), and he's just beginning to allow solid foods back on the menu. The other day, Joel and I were sharing some lovely cheeseburger soup (from, and he had some with us. Turns out, he likes the food we're eating much better than the baby food. And who can blame him? He does still eat baby food sometimes, but for now we're probably going to keep giving him diced up versions of the food we're already eating. Makes my life a bit easier, too.

Of course, he is also still working on his pincer grasp, and hasn't quite mastered the thumb-finger pinch yet, but eventually he got those peas in his mouth. Success!


Thursday, October 15, 2009


This week I was lucky enough to take my lovely niece to a concert at a nearby church. Lucky, because it turned out her dad was double-booked and wasn't able to go, and lucky because he asked *me* to be the one to attend in his place. Lucky, because I got to spend some fun, carefree girl-time with my niece, whom I love dearly and don't get to see anywhere near enough to suit me. And lucky because I got to listen to-- no, to experience some awesome, uplifting, energizing music that really renewed my spirits and gave me something to hold onto.

Things have been tough lately... it has been hard to keep my chin up, what with so many things seemingly conspiring to keep us on the edge of disaster. The jobs aren't coming through, the money is running out, the clock is ticking and the stress is starting to build up again, and through it all my sweet partner strides with unruffled feathers and an easy demeanor, believing things will work themselves out just fine. You'd think that would make me rest easier, right? But for some reason, it just seems to worry me even more. We just finished watching "Away We Go," and it really caught me off guard to see the main characters so calmly facing an uncertain future. Even Joel commented on it; he said, "Wow, she's not flipping out about the electricity going off. If that were you..." Enough said. We get the point. I wanted to be upset about it, and was for a moment, but the truth is that I do stress out way too much about things I can't change.

We just shared a great weekend with a couple of friends, and guess what? Yep, I flipped out. Twice. In one weekend! What the heck is up with that? One time, I almost started crying, just thinking about what was facing us on the return trip home-- money problems, and helping the baby learn how to sleep through the night, and hoping I wasn't pregnant, and wondering when things were going to turn around, and wishing with all my might that I could just let all the "stuff" on my shoulders slide off and enjoy the moment...

Anyway, it was rough. And the concert this week really helped give me some peace and some positive vibes to carry around with me. I even bought a CD to help keep my negativity in check, and I have this CD on replay this week.
My current fave was apparently on the TV show "Pushing Daisies"... very cool!


I'm pushing up daisies
I wish they were roses
I feel like I'm dying
Just want you to notice

I'm swimming to safety
but even with my best
If I don't see that rope soon
This might be my last breath

Somehow the grave has captured me
Show me the man I used to be
Just when I feel my breath is running out...

The earth moves and you find me
Alive but unworthy, broken and empty
But you don't care
Cause you are my rapture, you are my savior
When all my hope is gone, I reach for you
You are my rescue

Ahhhh.... that feels better. :)

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Change of Pace?

Here I am, thinking about re-entering the work force after only a few months home with Ethan, and realizing that it isn't as easy as it would have been a few years ago. Or if I had a degree that wasn't quite so fluffy (Social Science) or experience that wasn't quite so focused on one field (education/social services). Or, you know, if I was independently wealthy, in which case I could do whatever I wanted!

Anyway, I'm considering a career change. Maybe health, like an occupational therapist, or computers, as in computer forensics-- figuring out who left their digital DNA on a crime scene, as it were. Both seem very interesting, and both seem to have a lot of growth in the future for job opportunities. And both would be a complete, semi-radical change in pace for me. But maybe that's just what I need.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

The Clapper

This week, Ethan started clapping his hands together. And he loves it! He will just be standing by the couch, balancing with his body against the cushions, and then whammo! Clap, clap, clap, clap... and he is thrilled about it, to say the least. This huge grin spreads across his face, and he looks over at us to see if we're going to respond to his wonderful new discovery. "Look! I can clap my hands together!!" It's definitely a cool new trick. The cute thing is, he isn't quite bringing both hands together equally, yet. Instead, he sort of holds his left hand in place, and then swings his right hand over to clap against it. Although maybe that has something to do with the fact that he is still so wobbly when he's standing, and doesn't want to unbalance himself further. Either way, it's adorable, and I can't wait to get it on video. Speaking of which... someday soon, yea verily, I will figure out how to post videos on this blog. We're taking this thing to a whole new level, stat!

Friday, October 9, 2009

Standing Room Only

Did I mention that my son is amazing? It's true! Unlike other parents, this time it's the absolute, unvarnished truth. (Ahem.) But anyhow-- it really is amazing how quickly they go from absolutely dependent, floppy, delicate creatures to these curious, tough, excited little monkeys out to conquer the world. Ethan has just started to branch out into the "walking" arena, and it's just unbelievable to watch. He can cruise along the furniture and couches like nobody's business, and can move from standing to sitting to crawling with zero problems. Recently, he started standing on his own, without balancing against a prop object or someone's hands, for almost a minute at a time. He can even take a few steps as long as you're right next to him, but then he usually realizes he's walking on his own and wobbles himself right back down onto the floor. This kid is mere moments away from taking his first real steps, and he's only 9 1/2 months old! What the hoo-ha?! Brilliant, genius, blah blah blah... you get the point. He's awesome. ;)

In other news, his next pair of teeth are busting through on the bottom, so that he'll have eight chompers shining in all their glory by the end of this week. Unfortunately, that means he's been having a rough time of it with the teething pain. His cheek has gotten a little bit swollen and red this past week, and he's been crying out in his sleep and waking up for comfort and/or milk at least once a night for the past couple of weeks. All of the drooling is even causing a bit of a rash on his little chin, pobrecito... can't wait 'til those suckers finally bust through!

And I'm hoping that his teething is what has been making it so hard for him to eat real food lately. In fact, he isn't really "eating" much of anything. He still drinks his formula like a champ. But eating? Not so much. He's just not interested! Every so often, I'll be able to get him to take a whole container of plums & apples, or banana-plum-oats, or applesauce with cinnamon... he'll even eat crackers, veggie puffs, and teething biscuits, but not much else. Sometimes, he seems interested in the food we have on our plates, so I cut it smaller and give it to him, but he only takes a few bites and then he's done. What the heck, kid? I mean, he used to eat just fine, but for the past couple of months he's been sticking to milk. I guess he'll get there in time... I'll just keep on trying until one day, he gets it. It kind of reminds me of how it took him about two months to finally "get" how to drink out of a bottle. It's another lesson for me in learning how to let him go at his own pace. Learn, self, learn!!!

Thursday, October 8, 2009

What's the ASL sign for "peekaboo"?

Ethan has really been talking up a storm lately. Dadadada seems to be his favorite (of course), but he is vocalizing so much that we expect a word any day now. I love hearing him "talk" to us; sometimes he does such a great job imitating the rise and fall of regular speech that you almost wonder if he already is talking to us!
So far, the baby sign language hasn't kicked in yet, but I'm still giving it a go. We're working on milk, eat, more, and hurt right now. I hope that we can get at least a little bit of communication going on through the sign language, because it would be oh-so nice to know why he is upset instead of having to guess every time. Although I'm starting to become an expert on which whine or cry means I'm tired, or I'm hungry, or I'm bored. But still, it would be great to be able to give him the power to communicate his needs more effectively.

One thing he doesn't need to tell me is that he is definitely a morning person. He is almost always happy and smiling in the morning, and loves to just loll around with me and Joel in our room. He is positively beaming for at least an hour or two, before going back into his normal happy, inquisitive self. It's probably my favorite time with him; he's just so sweet and loving in the morning, you can't help but have a better day after spending time with him. It's one of the things I would miss most if I went back to work. (sigh)

But enough of that! Let's focus on the fun stuff. Like tonight, for instance, when he was initiating "peekaboo" with me. He loves to play peekaboo around the couch and ottoman, and loves to chase me around the house and be chased, but tonight was the first time he has actually been the one to hide his face and then pop out to "peekaboo!" when I call for him. He was standing by the kitchen bar counter, and would hide his head on the other side of the counter. I would call out "Where are you? Where are you, Ethan?" And then when he would pop his head into view, giggling uncontrollably, I would say "Peekaboo!" and we would both crack up. It was so awesome! I love that he's initiating play like this; that's my brilliant boy!

Wednesday, October 7, 2009


I'm not sure if I made it clear earlier that I am currently unemployed and working as a stay-at-home mom, which I love. Let me rephrase: I love being able to stay at home with my son; not so much loving the unemployed/"not getting paid for it" part. Well, technically I guess I *am* getting paid, because I'm getting unemployment. For now, that is. Eventually it will run out, and at that point we really have to have some other form of income, or my husband will have to be making enough to cover my lost wages. At this juncture, that just doesn't seem too likely, considering how high our region's unemployment is, how horrid the job market is continuing to look around here, and all the rest that comes along with that. So, to cut it short, I'm looking for work-- a "real" job, one that will take me away from my baby but also make it possible to keep buying him formula and diapers. You know, paychecks do come in handy sometimes. :)

And it's also kind of nice to consider going back into work somewhere. Not at my last job, thank you very much, but in an entirely different field, if possible. Social services is very rewarding, but also very draining at times and especially so when working with the most at-risk population possible. I need a break to rejuvenate my soul and renew my interest in working... hopefuly, something that is very different from what I was doing before, but where I can still use the skills and abilities that came in handy at my previous positions. Next week I will be going through "Phase 2" of the job search for two different positions; one in human resources, and one in a sort of planning/scheduling position. I don't really want to give too much detail, just in case The Man is watching my humble blog and wants to rat me out to The System. You never know...

Anyway, I'm excited about the possibilities, and about the idea of being able to afford little luxuries like new socks or a haircut, but I'm also a bit frightened about leaving my baby boy again. It was so hard on me last time. Of course, he was much younger then, but I'm not sure it'll be any easier now. Still, all said and done, I'm taking a job if it's offered to me. If I need to work to help provide for the family, then that's what I'll do. Period. And then cry at night sometimes because I miss my baby. :(

Monday, October 5, 2009


Oh, my son... how do parents even stand talking to people about how great their kids are? How brilliant, how gorgeous, how sweet, how perfect... maybe we do it all now so that when they start getting ornery and rambunctious, we can remember the times they were angelic. Maybe it's so we can remember that we, too, have our moments of pure awesomeness, that we are human beings who have a beautiful side hiding somewhere amidst all of the things we don't like about ourselves. Maybe it makes us better people-- having the ability to see such goodness in another being, and then being able to express it and share it with others. Because what is a compliment, really, without someone to hear and appreciate it? I've noticed that, when I'm out with my baby and I see other parents out with their older children, they often get this look of happy reminiscence on their faces. They sometimes even say, "I remember when *you* were that small..." and look over at their kids with a special smile.

October 3rd, 2009... Pondering life for a moment.

Maybe it's the most important thing in the world to keep reminding ourselves and other people that our kids are amazing and priceless works of art, so that they can recapture a little of that same joy and appreciation for other people in their lives. I know that having this child has definitely made me understand and appreciate my own parents much more, as well as the close friends who have been by my side throughout this whole experience. I'm sure it has been said many times before, and much more eloquently, but I'm just starting to realize that becoming a parent isn't only about taking care of another person, but about taking care of the little child within yourself and within all of us. The glad acceptance of complete responsibility and unconditional love for another person is transformative, both for individuals and for the community at large. I shudder to think what this world would be like without it.

Thursday, October 1, 2009


So, my hip has really been bothering me lately. Or, probably more accurately, my hip/pelvis/groin/upper inner thigh has been bothering me lately. And by "bother," I mean that the level of perturbance has varied along a range from:
* dull ache
** throbbing ache
*** stabbing painful ache
**** burning, sharp, breath-taking painful ache
***** absolute misery and inability to move my leg.

Sometimes it feels like my leg is getting sawed off right where it connects to my body; other times I feel like I'm re-enacting one of those Old English tortures where they pull you apart by your legs. Sounds pleasant, right? Ugh. It's very similar to the pain I felt right after my car accident in 2003, in which I broke my pelvis in a few places (among other injuries). After what seems to me like a minimal amount of physical exertion, I start to feel the tightening and aching that will eventually lead to a severe, sharp pain that makes me catch my breath. I end up limping my way over to a seat and then trying to rest or stretch or do whatever it takes to feel better. However, this becomes a touch difficult when I have a 9-month-old on the loose and ready to interact with me. How do I pick him up and carry him like this? How am I supposed to use the safety gate we installed-- the kind you climb over, of course? How do I help him walk around the house, or take him outside down the steps?


I know this seems like such a minor thing, and there are people out there who are dealing with much graver disabilities without one complaint, and that's what I'm trying to hold up like a banner in front of me. Besides, if I can't do this with a bum leg, how am I to expect my mother to be a Grandma while she's in a wheelchair and dealing with chronic pain? If she can do it facing those issues, I can do it facing mine!

Uh, right??

Anyway, I won't be getting any medical assistance with this anytime soon because we had to cancel my health insurance. At $189/month, it was surprisingly affordable, but with both of us in our current employment predicament it was just a luxury we couldn't afford. Not when formula costs just over $100/month, and diapers cost around $75/month, and then you have wipes and baby food and safety items and onesies and socks that actually fit him and so on and so forth... But there is my baby, crying for mama, so I'm done for now!

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

What a sitter!

Ethan finally learned (early last week) how to sit down by himself. Which means no more crying at the end of the couch, staring up at us with those big blue eyes, begging to be helped down to the ground. It also means that now he is even better at moving around the house than before, thus making his mother infintely more nervous about stepping up the babyproofing efforts. It's really unbelievable how many things you need to lock down, secure to the wall, latch, put away, lift up, or just plain get rid of when you have a crawler in the house. I guess that's why some people buy those superyards, instead; it keeps them contained in a much smaller space, so that you don't need to do a complete lock-down on the whole house. I almost wish that would work for us, but I don't see him being content in a confined space like that. And when baby's not content, ain't nobody happy.

He has also grown out of his 12-month onesies, which means I've got to stock up on 18-month clothing now. He just turned 9 months old, people! Sheesh! At least it's fun to browse through the baby clothes department in stores. Although I have noticed that the girls' options seem to outnumber boys' clothes by about 5:1. No exaggeration. And there is so much more variety, as well; boys seem to get denim, cords, and khaki, all with variations along a similar theme: vehicles, sports, monsters, or dirt. He can have all the trucks, bugs, skulls, aliens, or superheroes that he wants, but can we ever just get a basic shirt? Or one that has cool colors, but no football slogans? Why, that would be preposterous!! Girls, on the other hand, get endless options for their wardrobes. It's funny how early this gender bias starts... and it's not just all about making boys uber-masculine, either. When my niece was a baby, I sometimes searched for hours for something that wasn't pink or purple or sparkly. You know, something meant for a "kid" instead of something designed for "princess poofy giggle pants". Now, of course, I could buy something with "Tease" across the butt, or "Apple Bottom" jeans for toddlers... perfect!

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Poem: Autumn

Because I can't think of anything else to write at the moment, and because I need some positive energy to flow through me, and in recognition and celebration of the recent change in seasons, and basically "just because"... here you go.

                catch my eye
    with the fire of their descent
         and my heart stops for
      a moment- just one moment-
    but it is enough to remind me
                   of the way
                        i, too
                in full color,
              joyously, even,
      leaping full-steam-ahead
   towards the firm, dark earth
                   of you.

© MSE, 30 Nov 2005

Friday, September 18, 2009

Cemetery Adventures...

For some reason, I haven't written yet about our adventure with Para-Seekers Modseto, a group we found on We had a very interesting time, and hopefully one day we'll get to investigate with them again... you know, when we can get a babysitter set up and coordinate our schedules and so on. Anyway, we did have at least one excursion with them, and the cool thing about it was that we got to visit Joel's hometown: Oakdale, California. We actually got to visit the Oakdale Cemetery after hours, and walk around taking photos, recording EVP sessions, and just getting a feel for the place. It was odd in the beginning, because the first place I was drawn to was a child's grave. Great. Right after I leave my son with a babysitter, I find myself going over to the final resting place of a little baby. Ack! But in reality, it wasn't all that creepy, just... sad, and lonely, somehow.

Later in the evening, though, we actually got our own crazy, cool, personal experience with an anomaly-- that we caught on camera.

Sometime between 9 and 10 p.m., I began taking a series of pictures with my digital camera, holding the camera still and taking the same shot over and over. After taking the third picture, I saw in the digital display that there was suddenly a bright anomaly in front of the headstone. I continued taking photographs to see if the anomaly would still re-appear, but it was only visible in one picture.

The headstone, before:
anomaly after

The anomaly:

The headstone, after:
anomaly before

The anomaly, close-up:
anomaly close-up

The headstone, close-up, to show there are no reflective surfaces:

So.... do you think we had "an experience" out there? Hmmm? WE do!

Searching for Hope

It seems like once we get on a good roll, something has to happen to change everything, forcing us to start over from scratch. I have to admit that I'm a worrier, so things like this tend to upset my world a bit. I like to have things tidy, organized, and running according to plan most of the time, though I'm not extremely rigid about the minute details. (Or so I'd like to think...) I really like to know what's going to happen next, and I know that I tend to have a difficult time just letting go and being completely spontaneous and free about things.

It was a lot easier to be like that when I had $30,000 in the bank, a good job, no debt, and no major responsibilities beyond myself. Now things are just a little bit different-- no savings whatsoever, laid off and receiving unemployment (but only until December), and caring for a 9-month old son who depends on me and his dad for everything. It makes every decision that much more heightened for me, and really puts my character flaws on display. I've seen myself become even more of a worrier, more anxious about security and stability, more concerned about income and bills... and then, of course, I take it out on those around me because it increases my tension, shortens my temper, and pulls my already tight nerves even further.

Is there a positive end in sight? It's all I can hold on to, the belief that things will get better for us, and that eventually we will be stable enough to go out and do the carefree, adventurous things we've always wanted to do-- without worrying about how that will impact our real lives, financially or otherwise. I've decided to just let go of the worries and let life flow around me for awhile. What has the worrying done for me, anyway? Just caused more stress and more problems. So I'm evicting it from my life. For now, I'm just going to enjoy the time with my family, and visualize a bright and happy future. Things will improve.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

9 months old... can you believe it?!

We met Ethan's new doctor at Kaiser today, and it was such a relief-- she's fun, sweet, smart, and seems to have a pretty healthy sense of humor. We had a great visit, and she confirmed what we already know, of course: Ethan is doing perfectly well, developmentally speaking, and (in her professional opinion) he is soooo cute! (I thought that was hilarious; aren't they supposed to say that about all babies?) He is mid-range in his weight, above average in height, and (ahem) scored a 95 on his head circumference! That is, his head is bigger around than 95% of kids his age in the USA. Well, at least there's another 5% who have bigger braincases than he does, right? Uh, right??

Anyway- the Doctor gave me some projects to work on over the next couple of months. Apparently, as he is now 9 months old (as of Tuesday), he should be waving hello and goodbye at people. She was also a bit taken aback that he isn't saying "mama" or "dada" yet. She also thought that he should also be more adept at picking up things between thumb and forefinger. Oh, and he needs to get going with the whole sippy-cup deal, because they want babies off the bottle by that time. No pressure!! As you can see, I will have my hands full running the baby through the mill in order to make sure he stays perfectly in tune with the mid-range of babies around the country/world... or maybe not. ;)

Below is a recent picture of my darling boy, enjoying the much-too-brief rain this weekend with his daddy. Aren't they gorgeous?
ethan rain 9-13-09

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Some decompression...


One of the things I regret most about our trip to Burning Man this year was what it could have been, what we could have done and seen and learned, what we missed because of where we chose to camp this year. There was so much that we weren't able to experience, yet we saw it out there and even had brief, short-lived glimpses of what could have been-- and it just makes us want to do it right next year. No more camping with a theme camp that is so disorganized, disfunctional, and negative that they suck all the fun and life out of this major adventure. No more being stuck in one spot, working our rear ends off for days at a time to set up a vehicle that isn't even fun to ride on. No more, I say! Next time, things will be different. (That is, assuming we can get another carer for Ethan next year!)

A beautiful metal sculpture, newly constructed on the Playa... she was one of our beacons and a landmark for getting home from the playa.

A lot of people end up camping out here. This year, over 43,000 burners spent time in the desert together. Here are a few of them:
bman tents

And here are some of the things we learned this year:
* Clear goggles for night-time are crucial. With them, you can enjoy the evenings without constantly digging sandhills out of your eyes.
* More underwear, more socks, and more water.
* More funky costumes for both of us, plus more playa-friendly evening wear (warm shrugs, leggings, etc.). Some days, you just need to dress up, like when you're riding a pirate ship!
* Did I mention bringing more water?
* Less hard alcohol, and more light stuff-- beer, sprite, etc-- for daytime fun.
* Belt-packs/fanny packs are a lifesaver for carrying chapstick, sunscreen, gum/mints, a map or schedule of events, flashlight, 5-hour energy drinks, and anything else you might need on the Playa. And they look pretty cool sometimes, too:
* Personal challenges: We plan on making a list of challenges to ourselves and to each other, little "dares" to make sure we are stretching our boundaries and trying to grow a little bit while we're there.
* EL wire! We want to be more lit up next time, it's easier to avoid getting run into at night, and just looks cool.
* Ice-cold Limoncello is a beautiful thing in the desert.
* Nap at dawn, walk/bike/take photos in the early morning, nap in the afternoon, and be ready to hit the road all night.
* Explore more activities and more camps: We want to really get out there and meet more people next time, because we missed out on it this year. Like the people in this pic, for instance; who came up with the human hamster-mobile?
bman vehicle

Other than that, avoid despotic tyrants and negative nancies like the plague, and you should have the most amazing adventure ever! It can be fun, exciting, challenging, and even touching or sad sometimes... Below, Joel and I share a somewhat solemn moment together on Friday. We were visiting the Temple and reading some of the very moving, intense, and personal dedications/memorials/open letters/etc. that people had added to the wooden structure. I also added some of my own. :)