Friday, December 31, 2010


Ethan has really enjoyed getting to spend time with his aunt Stefanie, whom he calls "Fie" for some reason. She has been a reliable babysitter for us, too, which is nice for those times when you just can't see bringing along a toddler on an excursion. Right now, she's still looking for work-- just like me-- so we tend to spend a lot more time together than usual, which means Ethan gets to see quite a bit of his auntie Fie. Like when they were playing with light bulbs together (ack!)...

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He loves that he gets to spend a lot of time with family because they live nearby. Every night before he goes to sleep, he runs through the litany of family names... Fie (aunt Stefanie), Weila (cousin Leila), Baba (grandma), Papa (grandpa), Wee-na (aunt Elena), Wose (aunt Adrienne Rose), Buela (Joel's mom & Ethan's grandma-- "abuela"), Dad (Joel), and even Apple (Abuela's dog). He'll ask, "Where Fie?" and I'll say "Where's Fie?" to repeat his question. He'll look at me and say "went bye-bye" and I'll tell him "Fie's at home" or "Leila's with her daddy," and on through the list. It's pretty sweet, actually... I love that little ritual.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Warning: Scenes of Cranial Peril Ahead

Ethan is a little monkey. He loves to climb, and explore, and lately has been trying out all these new ways to get in, around, through, and under furniture. When he starts planning his maneuvers, he gets this crafty expression on his face.
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I warned him not to do it...
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But he just had to try climbing off of the chair through the small side opening.
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How's that working out for ya, Ethan?
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Mom, of course, was compelled to document this all for posterity's sake. But I did (eventually) help him get out, without permanent damage to the noggin. We hope. ;)

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Snow Day!

We took Ethan up to see snow for the first time yesterday, because it was apparently going to be the only day this week that it wasn't actually snowing. Turns out, it was a beautiful day... clear blue skies, lots of soft snow on the ground, and plenty of families around enjoying the weather at Big Trees.

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Unfortunately, Ethan woke up after a very short nap and was a bit fussy and unhappy at first. He wanted to be held the whole time, until we got him into the toboggan-- I sat behind him, and Joel pulled us around for a bit. He calmed down pretty quickly, and even allowed us to put his hat on without a major fight. He tore off his mittens and dropped them in the snow until they finally became too wet for him to wear, so he had to go bare-hands the rest of the day. I took off my gloves too, so that I could kind of monitor his skin temperature every time I held his hands-- which was all the time.

But guess what? He ended up loving it. He wanted so badly to get out and play with all of the bigger kids, but I just couldn't let him dig into the snow too much with his hands uncovered. He did end up helping a nice lady work on her snowman, but finally got too cold and started getting upset again. He had a pretty awesome set of snow pants/overalls on, and a really thick winter jacket over that, so most of the time he was doing really well. Except when we got back to the car...

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He just has a hard time leaving his warm stuff on, including hats and socks; this kid is like part polar bear, or something. All in all, we had fun. Can't wait to take him again, this time with the proper gear on. If he'll leave it on, that is!

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Monday, December 27, 2010


I've always been a daydreamer. Ever since I can remember, I've wandered away in my mind to other places, other times, other lives that were different or exciting or just better, by virtue of not being the one I was living. I'm not quite sure if that propensity for fantasy helped or hindered my attempts to live a real and genuine life, but it's always been a defining characteristic of mine.

For example, I always had this dream image of what my married life would be like. It would involve nights playing games with the kids, laughing at whatever silly thing we did to crack each other up... it would feature special moments where I watched my husband give my child a bath, or read them a bedtime story, or talk seriously together about bugs, moments that would make my heart ache with tenderness... it would be sprinkled liberally with times where my husband would set up a special evening together or surprise me with breakfast, or just reach across the couch and gently touch my arm while we watched the latest show together.


I don't know how much my daydreaming has informed the way I perceive my real life marriage and family, but I don't think it's helping me to feel contentment. Instead, I tend to have a vague feeling of dissatisfaction about how things are working out, as if there is something missing from the whole equation. It's like when you read a novel, and then watch the movie adaptation, and you feel a sense of loss because the film just can't capture the depth and breadth of a book-- you can't get a true picture of the characters' thoughts and feelings when an image has to replace paragraphs and possibly pages' worth of description. So, I'm left with a nagging sense of less-than, which constantly makes me question myself; am I impossible to please, or is my life really missing the mark in some way? And if the latter, what can I do to make my life *now* become the life I truly want? How do I make my daydream of married life a reality?

Friday, December 24, 2010

Christmas Eve

Tonight we will celebrate Christmas with my parents and sisters, as well as my niece Leila. So far, I think the plan is to get there around 4 p.m. or so, and then have dinner while watching White Christmas. Dinner is going to be prime rib, roasted potatoes, savory bread pudding with mushrooms and parmesan, salad, and apple pie. Sounds simple, soothing, and perfect. :)

In honor of the day, here's a picture of one of Jim Shore's Santa figurines... I love his nativity sets, too, so maybe someday we'll add some of his stuff to our Christmas decorations. One day...


Thursday, December 23, 2010

Training: Postponed

We decided to put off the potty training until a couple of things happen first:
1) Ethan consistently sleeps through the night in his bed
2) He can pull his pants up and down by himself
3) Christmas is over with, and possibly New Year's Eve.

We just weren't ready, I guess. Oh well, I'll be sure to keep you posted when we really do begin!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Potty Training: The Beginning

This week we will begin potty training for Ethan. And by we, I mean me, of course. My lovely parents and family bought us the Potty Scotty toilet training system, the same one featured on Dr.Phil. It claims to help you potty train your child in as little as one day to two weeks, with follow-up/maintenance lasting for awhile after that. They recognize that kids will continue to have night-time accidents for awhile, as only 66% of 2-year-olds are completely dry throughout the night, but they do state that your child should be able to be mostly dry all day long with their system.

I'm trying to start the potty training now, while I'm still off work and at home with Ethan, so that he can mostly have a grasp on it when I finally do start work and he has to be in daycare. I think it would just be a lot easier if we took care of the bulk of the training now, while I can be there working with him for several hours out of each day. I know it's going to be full of challenges and I'll have to really exercise my patience and understanding, but I'm actually looking forward to it. It's kind of exciting to think that he's going to be learning yet another key to self-reliance. My baby really *is* growing up!

Monday, December 20, 2010

Will You Follow?

It's a very disheartening moment that happens every so often in a person's life; some, more than others. It's a difficult moment of truth type of event, something that makes you re-think what you previously believed, or damages your faith in what you still want to hold true. It happens to leaders and to people who want to be leaders; it happens to lovers and people who want to be loved; it happens to lonely people, hopeful people, and parents all of the time; and it never fails to disappoint and discourage, although sometimes parents can actually feel a secret gem of pride that their child has reached a new developmental stage.

It's just so sad to begin walking away, and realize that nobody is coming after you. No one is running behind you to say "No, please come back!" Nobody is following in your path and saying "Teach me, I want to be like you!" There is no hand reaching out across the void to touch yours, no footsteps echoing yours down the hallway, nobody to say "You will not be able to leave me in the distance or go off alone, because I will always be with you."

I imagine it's this feeling that leads people to God, or to another spiritual being. It seems they are the only proof against my statements above. Except that they aren't so much following us, as always there beside us... it's something to look into, anyway. It's been a long time since I felt that way about something.

Tori amos china
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Thursday, December 16, 2010

Ethan is 2 years old!

My little boy turned two years old yesterday. In honor of his birthday, I decided to cut his hair-- finally! It was so long that every time we saw him, we felt compelled to brush his hair out of his eyes. It was growing over his ears and across his collar, and was just looking so messy all the time that it was starting to bother me. So, we spent the weekend before looking like this:

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And it just drove me crazy. So, last night I got out the hair clipper, sat him in his high chair to keep him still, and then spent several minutes getting him comfortable with the sound of the buzzing clippers. It only took a little while before he was giggling and holding his body fairly stable, so I went for it. After about ten minutes, we took this picture:

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Isn't my boy gorgeous? Happy Birthday, Ethan!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Christmas Train Ride

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We took Ethan to go ride a Christmas train, and he was absolutely thrilled. We tried first to go see Santa, but the line was ridiculous so we just waved as we left the line after waiting fifteen minutes. We walked right over to the train, and Ethan and Joel were able to get on the very next ride.

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He loved it! The pictures were a little tough because (obviously) they were moving the whole time...

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But you can tell, even through the blurriness, that he was thrilled.

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And I think his daddy had a pretty good time, too. Or should I say, "Choo, choo!"

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Tuesday, December 14, 2010


This past weekend, we overindulged. And then, as usual when you go overboard, we said and did things that we shouldn't have-- things we didn't even quite remember the next day, but that happened nonetheless. The worst part is that it ended up hurting someone I care about, and that is a major problem. It has convinced me that I'm relying way too much on certain beverages right now to help me ignore or avoid major stress in my life-- things like, oh, I don't know, the complete lack of any income whatsoever and the inability to pay rent without borrowing (hopefully) a significant amount from someone else.

In a way, it seems too easy to use imbibing too much or being extremely stressed or even being over-tired as the reason why you acted badly... it really can be true, but it still sounds like just an excuse. The thing is, I've acted like a jerk many many times in my life without the option of blaming it on alcohol or exhaustion or whatever else could have triggered an explosion. Instead, I only had to look at my temper and my inability to control it, and then see myself as an angry or aggressive or, at the very least, impulsive person. I would say and do things, even to people that I cared deeply about, that I would later regret and feel terrible about. The difference is that this time, both of us really were almost completely out of it, and hardly remember what happened. Being told by someone else what you did or said makes things somehow even worse, because it forces you to realize that you allowed things to get so out of control that you couldn't even control your own words or actions. Very disheartening realization.


The other problem is that it wasn't just me who was involved. So now we have two people acting like jerks and flipping out, which just exacerbates the whole situation. It's best to just stay far away from people who have overindulged, because they are like swimmers flailing at their rescuers-- they can be almost more of a danger to the helper than to themselves. If there was any way to erase everything, we would do it in a heartbeat. Unfortunately, there isn't. And so all we can do now is wait, and hope for forgiveness... eventually.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Independent Sleeping

Ethan now has a new habit for going to bed. After we've finished the whole toothbrush routine, and have put the trucks in their sleeping spot, and changed into night-time diapers and finally are ready for bed, he climbs into his crib and starts to arrange his teddy bears, blankets and pillows to his satisfaction. I'll ask him if he wants me to sing him a song, and he'll usually say "mm-HMMM" and lay his head down on his pelo-pelo (the red embroidered one). By the time I'm done singing that one song, he's already saying "bye bye mom" or "night-night." The first few times he did that, I was kind of shocked. My baby, asking me to leave? What the heck is going on here?! But then I realized what was going on: He wanted me to go so that he could get out of bed, wander around his room, and play a little bit before going to sleep. Sometimes he even laid his head on his pillow and faked a few snores before looking up at me with these wide-open eyes and saying "night night, mom." Yeah, sure, kid; you're so sleepy right now. Fine, I'll leave so you can get on with whatever you're planning.

It's sweet, that he wants to get himself to sleep on his own... but also a bit sad for me to think that this is just one small sign that he is growing up and becoming self-sufficient. Yes, we have a long way to go, but this is just the beginning of the long, slow, sometimes painful process of him pulling away from me and becoming Ethan. Oh, the joys and sorrows of motherhood. Wasn't it just a minute ago that things were like this?

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Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Job: Denied.

So I finally got the dreaded email from the County Office of Education. After an interview, the first contact you want is in the form of a telephone call-- the kind where they offer you the position. The last thing you want is written communication, because it means that the job search is over... for you, at least. They chose another person, someone who was either more qualified or who they thought would be less likely to leave for a better position as soon as they got the chance. I guess we'll never really know why this one didn't work out. But what we do know is this: I'm in serious employment free-fall right now and have no idea how we're paying rent in three weeks.

Ornamentally Speaking

I love Christmas. I love the decorations, the sentiments, the focus on others, the weather, the smells of cinnamon and pine and cider... and I especially love ornaments. I have a few that are my current favorites. For instance, flying Santa.

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I originally bought him as my offering for an ornament exchange at a work holiday party. I loved him so much that, when it came to be my turn to take someone else's gift or grab a new one, I took Santa back. I think he enjoyed coming back home.

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Ethan's favorite ornament is the little lamb that I found at a church yard sale one year. He loves it because it reminds him of Timmy the lamb, from Timmy Time-- his current favorite cartoon in the universe. It's actually pretty awesome, and is filmed in stop-motion just like Wallace & Gromit. I love it too, if you can't tell. Every time he wants to watch TV now, he says "Baaa!" just like Timmy. Too bad the only way you can get one of their stuffed dolls is to have it shipped from England for an exorbitant price. Bummer!

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

My Boy

Ethan has an expression that just tugs at my heartstrings, every time... it's sort of a sideways shrug, a bit bashful and a bit playful, and lately he's been doing it when he wants be sure that we are following behind him. I love it.

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The other day we actually had a bout of warm-ish weather, so Ethan wanted to be outside with his soccer ball. Maybe one of these days we'll be able to enroll him in soccer classes like his big cousin Preston!

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In the meantime, we'll have to content ourselves with play-dates, visiting family, and fun time at home with mom and dad. That sounds perfect, right, Ethan? Uh, right?

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Uh-oh. Looks like it's time to kick the job hunt into high gear and get this kid into daycare!

Monday, December 6, 2010

Black Friday Parking Lot Gift

Stefanie went out on that craziest of crazy holiday shopping sprees, Black Friday. She suffered through cold and darkness and people smoking in line around her, all while at the same time battling a pretty nasty case of bronchitis. Why, you ask? To get a TV that was never gotten. Sad news, and pretty disappointing considering how long she spent out there and how frustrating it was to shop with a bunch of rabid cuckoo nut-jobs. BUT, there was a silver lining to that cloudy morning. While walking back to her car, she noticed something under a cart. Something that had been left far, far behind by someone else on a mad rush to get to the next store, the next deal, the next best thing. It was a gift from the Black Friday spirit of Christmas Yet to Come...

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And it only had one problem: A torn zipper. No worries! She adopted it on the spot and brought it back for her nephew. He thought it through and decided to make it his throne.

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And lo, it was good.

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Sunday, December 5, 2010

Job Hunt: Desperation Version

So, starting Monday I'm going into full-desperation mode on my job hunt. I'm calling all of the places where I've completed interviews and checking the status of the hiring process. At least then I'll know whether or not to keep those options open. Then, I'm calling a few temp agencies and setting up appointments at the first one that's available. I did contact some last week, but it was via an email link on their websites and I haven't heard back yet. I also plan on going in to take my typing test so that I can have a current certificate stating my typing speed. If I end up doing reception or data entry, so be it. I have one more application packet that I need to turn in this week, for a Human Resources Technician at the local community college. Unfortunately, that job doesn't even close until the 15th, so I obviously won't be hearing back from them in time to pay January rent. Which is my main goal right now: Paying rent in January. Gotta do whatever it takes to keep my family in this house. I refuse to be homeless!!

Of course, I'm not the only one in Modesto looking for a job- we have a 16.2% unemployment rate here, and it's not looking to improve any time soon.
County's jobless rate remains flat, but likely to rise - Business -

Friday, December 3, 2010

Impending Doom

I haven't heard back from the jobs at the City or the County yet, and right now I'm just trying to stop the tidal wave of sheer, panicked terror that is threatening to wash over me.

Today I got my last full check from unemployment, which allowed me to pay for rent with nothing left over for any December bills. Next week, I will get my last check- PERIOD- which will be approximately $450. Here's a brief list of the bills I have to pay in December:
- $85: City of Modesto (garbage & water)
- $48: PG&E (gas)
- $40: AT&T (internet)
- $180: MID (electricity)
- $8: Kaiser (Ethan's health ins)
- $62: Fed Tax Debt Pay-off (due the 25th)
- $30: State Tax Debt Pay-off (automatic on the 15th)
- $39: Melanie's cell phone
- $55: Joel's cell phone
- $54: Care Credit (dental bill)

Just our utilities add up to $353, and that's if my estimates above are accurate. The rest of those bills really do have to be paid, and they add up to an additional $248, and that's not even including the car insurance bill-- we overpaid a couple of times so don't owe anything in December, but it'll be $150-180 in January. That means that, in addition to $900 in rent, we have about $760 in other bills due every month, and that doesn't even begin to count groceries, diapers, or household necessities.

I seriously have no idea what in the world we are going to do. It feels like the world is ending.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

(D) E.B.T.

So, I'm looking into the "food stamps" issue, and finding out that it's very different than I thought it was. First of all, they're not called food stamps any more; the money is instead transferred monthly onto "EBT" (Electronic Balance Transfer) cards that look just like a debit/credit card.

EBT card

I suppose they chose that form to reduce the shame factor for those people who rely on food aid to get through the month. Secondly, the range of items you can buy is pretty broad. Check it out:

What you can buy with food stamps [7 C.F.R. § 271.2]
--- Any food for human consumption except hot food (but remember, there is also an exception for approved restaurant meals programs).
--- Seeds and plants to grow food for yourself or your family.

What you cannot buy [7 C.F.R. § 271.2]
--- Pet food.
--- Alcohol.
--- Non-food items such as soap, toothpaste, toilet paper, cigarettes, etc.
--- Vitamins and medicines.
--- Any hot food, including hot food intended for immediate consumption (with the exception of restaurant meals programs).

Interesting, right? I actually found out that Papa Murphy's Take & Bake Pizza accepts EBT cards. Considering that it's around $6-8 per pizza, and that is a meal that feeds my family, I think it's not a bad deal. Not for regular use, of course, but pretty neat. Anyway, hopefully it doesn't come down to that. But if it does, I'll know how to use it!

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Time Out

It has begun: The days of the dreaded (but often effective) Time Out. So far, our discipline has been fairly minimal, and limited primarily to removing items that he wants or removing him from the scene of potential disaster. I've been reading some toddler discipline books and online advice columns, though, and decided to give Time Outs a try. I know there are probably thousands of parents out there who swear by it, but I also know that many of us resort to Time Outs for all of our disciplinary needs, and it gets way over-used. I didn't want to be one of those "You want a Time Out? Do ya? Huh?" types, so I avoided it as long as possible.

Now that there is a distinct possibility that I might be getting a new job and putting Ethan into a child care facility, I need to help him get up to speed with his social skills. And one of the most important skills is learning how to navigate the daycare setting, with all of its rules and special procedures to help keep order amidst the potential chaos. Being able to control your own impulsiveness is something that everyone can benefit from knowing, and Ethan could certainly use the help in that arena. Yesterday we had two Time Outs, and he did so well during each one. He sat still in his Time Out spot against the wall in the main corridor, and sat there the whole two minutes. Both times! Today, when he got his first Time Out, he started saying "I sorry, mom" about 30 seconds in. What a doll! And then he helped clean up the food he dumped out earlier.

Hmm... maybe this Time Out thing *is* all it's cracked up to be.