Wednesday, December 30, 2009

The year in review at 18 months

This year has been an eventful one folks. Here are some of the major highlights:

Food: Folks, I learned that a meal can be more than warmish liquid fed to me under the heavy cover of a hooter hider. It comes in all forms. I especially like the goldfish variety. I mean have you tried this delicacy? Crunchy cheese flavored morsels from heaven. They are especially delicious when mashed up on the floor and mixed with a sprig or two of doggie fur. Mmmmm.. Divine.

Walking: It was around October when I discovered that one can transport themselves by walking on two feet. It spares the knees and palms of your hands. I am telling you, simply ingenious. For all of my younger friends, do not wait until you hit 14 months-that is just criminal.

Falling in Love: It's true. It happened about three months ago. I met the softest, most inviting friend. She is blue, square, squishy and lovely. I can rest my head on her at night, and I can stick her stringy tassels in my mouth for extra comfort. I take her with me everywhere I go. My mommy tries to keep her in my crib, but I won't hear of it! Pillow goes where I go. We are a team.

English: I have mastered the art of communication with the big people. I have learned several of their words, and it has had an amazing impact on my quality of life. All I need to do is utter "watee" and all of the sudden I am presented with a cup of cool liquid refreshment. Fabulous! "Uppy" and I am carried around like the Prince I was born to be. "Mine!" and my brother takes the desired object and hits me in head with it, not ideal... but well you get the idea.

2009 has been a fantastic adventure. In June, I was given a cake and many gifts... and just this December I met a scary man named Santa Claus who also presented me with toys and candies. I can only imagine what 2010 will bring! Someone told me I will be given the privilege of a a "big boy" bed, and a tricycle. I don't want to dream too big.

I would like to wish everyone a Happy New Year filled with more goldfish crackers and apple juice than you could ever want. May all of your dreams come true.

With love,

Evan-18 months

Monday, December 28, 2009

Flying the Friendly Skies

I have had quite enough of airports. I would be perfectly satisfied to stay home bound for the foreseeable future, particularly if traveling means hauling around the kids and all of the required small fry gear. In the past two weeks I have taken four flights with my offspring and I am perfectly exhausted from the experience.

I am positive that I am not making any earth shattering comments when I bring up the fact that air travel has changed since I was a child. We all know that the events of September 2001 forever changed the flying experience.

I did not travel by plane frequently when I was young, so perhaps the details are a bit fuzzy. My memories of flying include breakfast at a small diner in the Madison airport, a pair of shiny plastic wings received as I boarded, small bags of salty peanuts served with soda, and an in-flight meal which always included a little wilted salad and a dried up dinner roll with a pat of butter. I looked forward to those tasteless dinners because they were somehow special.

My son's memories will be oh-so different. Today he surprised me while we were going through security. Without any coaxing Zachary began disrobing as we approached the metal detectors. He took off his jacket, his shoes and his Diego back-pack. He reluctantly handed me Mr. Brown Doggie so I could place him in a plastic bucket headed for the x-rays. He did ask, why? Why does Mr. Brown Doggie have to go in the bucket? Why do I have to take off my shoes? How do I answer that in any way that would make sense to a four year old? Or even to a 35 year old? Really? Your going to xray a child's stuffed dog in the name of the FAA? I know, it is a complex and sad predicament we find ourselves in. There are no easy answers. For Zack, there are no airplane snacks or meals, and children are no longer given plastic wings or coloring books, it's a no frills experience unless you are wealthy enough to pay for first class tickets.

Fortunately I was able to keep my son pacified with the portable DVD player and a few chocolate chip granola bars and at this point he views security as a strange but necessary part of air travel. At some time in the future my baby will be old enough to wonder what an orange alert means, and ask why he can't bring his water bottle through security. We will have to discuss terrorism, war and our sad economy. Innocence lost. I suppose they call that growing up, and right now that seems so very unappealing.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

It's Complicated

Christmas day, I saw a movie, in the theater. In this life that is a big deal. I can probably count on one hand the number of movies (with a rating higher than G) that I have seen in the actual theater in the past four years. My sister-in-law suggested the outing because when she was growing up hitting the theater was a holiday tradition. I have never been to a movie on a major holiday, and I have to say I rather enjoyed it.

We viewed It's Complicated with Alec Baldwin, Meryl Streep and my not-so-secret crush John Krasinksi. First we need to talk about John. Good god, I am in love with this man. What is it about him? I doubt anyone would say he is the "hottest" famous guy around, but he is sexy because he is accessible. He reminds me of someone my husband would be buddies with. He is understated, funny, and normal. I told my mother-in-law that I would leave David for him. I am only half kidding.

So the movie was good, really funny and sweet. I hate to say it but what really struck me about the flick was Meryl Streep. She is old. I mean she really looks like an AARP member. Perhaps it's because I am thinking of her appearances in earlier films such as Kramer Vs. Kramer. But Kramer Vs. Kramer came out four years after I was born, and now I am 35 years old, so that makes Meryl...ancient. This is a little bit unsettling especially because I found myself identifying with her character (a woman in her late fifties with grown children) more than I did with the "kids" in the movie. Granted, I have a ways to go, but it says something that I am more middle age than college kid.

This has got me thinking a little bit about the celebrities of my youth. The beautiful people whose pictures adorned my locker and bedroom walls. Madonna, Michael Jackson, Michael J. Fox, Patrick Swayze, River Phoenix and Scott Baio. Of this list, three are dead, one is ill, one is a skinny freak who thinks she is Jewish, and the other is a has-been staring on bad reality TV. These days I am totally out-of-touch with pop culture. I don't know half of the stars in Tiger Beat (if that rag is still even around), and I honestly can't name even one Rhianna song. All of this adds up to the undeniable fact that I am old. Or at least not that young anymore.

Okay, okay, maybe I am getting a tad bit carried away. I realize it is a little early to be researching retirement homes, but it feels strange. I have one foot stretching to stay youthful, and the other planted in a sensible shoe on the other side of young. I'm torn about where I fit, and what feels right. I wouldn't say that I am in the middle of a midlife crisis, but rather just shocked to find myself identifying with an old lady in a movie I saw on Christmas. I guess... it's complicated.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Merry Christmas

Happy Holidays from New Mexico. The trip here was exhausting, but I cannot tell you how happy I was to see my husband at the Albuquerque airport. Praise the Lord, here are your children, peace-out, kind of happy.

Now I am sitting at my brother and sister in law's cozy home, getting ready for an evening of viewing luminaria , a New Mexican tradition. The husband is running Zachary to exhaustion in the backyard, and Evan is wondering around chewing apples and spitting them out, while breathing heavily because his nose is all stuffed up. Holiday music is playing on the stereo and I am sipping a glass of wine wondering... was it worth it?

It's great to be here, and perhaps if the trip to Denver with the kids sans husband hadn't drained the life out of me my answer would have been a resounding YES. But I am swearing on my life right now, there will be no future trips without the spouse in the near future. Id rather eat asparagus for Christmas dinner, and for those of you who know me, that is saying a heck of a lot.

Anyways, I am here with family, it is a lovely chaos and I need to get off of the computer. Holiday cheer to all.


Monday, December 21, 2009

Im a buzz kill

Let's be honest, traveling with small children is always hard, and "vacationing" with the little ones over the holidays carrying the expectation of Christmas magic in your heart is even harder. You envision jolly cookie baking sessions, a fun trip to the busy mall to visit Santa , cups of holiday cheer passed around a lovely fireplace la, la, la and ho ho ho.

Then there is reality. People get sick, flights are delayed, kids fight, one child hates the snow while the other one wants nothing more than to make snow angels all day long, your broken cell phone turns into several hours on hold with Verizon and icky trips to a shopping center to run cheerless errands. You realize that you lost this or that, and that you packed the wrong stuff. Somehow the magic gets lost in the details of living your every day life miles and miles away from home without your spouse. Exhaustion sets in, and suddenly the sad realization that you are wishing the whole damn season away.

There was a time in my life when festivity was my motto. David and I held an annual holiday bash with enough booze to light up the North Pole. It was our thing. I had fuzzy red sweaters and Santa socks. I shopped for weeks and even made my own wrapping paper (I am not exaggerating folks.) There were parties to attend, sparkly cocktails and evening gowns. Now well... it is an entirely different type of celebration, and one that should be very joyous, but at the moment I am feeling sucked dry and longing for the more carefree "Merry" of earlier times.

It is fair to say that I am a wee-bit self-centered. I still want Christmas to be a little bit about Rachel. I want to have some romance and excitement just for me... but alas this year it seems a bit sparse. It is an unusual year no doubt. We have recently up-rooted our family and moved several states away. Our usual holiday traditions were put aside. No neighborhood holiday party at the Kargas house, no grown-up cocktail event to attend, and few invitations to share the season with friends. This is in fact my first trip with both kids and no husband, and although it hasn't been terrible, it seems a little sad and has certainly been draining.

I am very thankful to have friends and family to visit. I love them dearly. Maybe that is what makes things a bit harder this year. Everyone is here... and we are sharing a brief hectic visit, cramming in as much jingle bells in a few days as possible. I don't want this to foreshadow the years to come. Harried visits over major holidays, catching up quickly while chasing after crazed children. Forced quality time.

I suppose this is how things go, and it is about making the most of the moment. In reading my comments above I realize I am a total buzz kill.... my attitude must change. Joy to the world.

Just wish me an easy trip to Albuquerque. It is suppose to snow and I have a tremendous fear of major flight delays. If we can make it to New Mexico on time and with both kids relatively healthy we have a chance at a pleasant, if not somewhat different holiday....

Why I don't have four kids

Zachary: "Milk please"
Evan: "Please:
Finn (my 2.5 year old nephew): Waives fork in Evan's face almost stabbing him in nose
Evan "Whaaaaa"
Zachary: Laughs hysterically
My Sister: "Finn! We don't hit people with forks. Forks are for eating"
Finn: "Whaaaa".
Zachary: "I said more milk!!"
Me: "Zachary that is not how we ask for something, how do we ask?"
Zachary: "I wanted the bigger plate! Why did Finn get more than me?"
Me: "He didn't. You have the same amount"
Zachary: "I wanted the MOST! Whaaaaa!"
Finn: Takes toy truck and try to throw it at Evan's head. Misses, but....
Evan: "Whaaaa".
My Sister: "Finn we don't throw our toys at people! Do you need a time out?"
Finn: "Whaaaa"
Kristoff (my four month old nephew) Whaaaaaa!!!!

And it's only 7:30am.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Many Friends

My son has many friends. Just ask him. He is very popular, especially amongst the stuffed animal set.

I thought I might introduce you to some of his best pals.

Mr. Brown Doggie (MBD): Zachary's dearest chum. MBD was a baby shower gift I received before Zachary was born. It hung out in his room untouched until Zachary turned two. At that point the pooch and Zack became inseparable. Wherever Zachary was MBD was not far behind. He was hugged and kissed, taken to the park, the grocery store, he traveled with us on cross country trips, he has been puked on, and snotted on, and by now he is a general filthy mess. Mr. Brown Doggie has a very interesting life. As it turns out he lives in Africa. He is five or 98 years old depending on the day. He has an airplane. He has been in several plane crashes. He attends the Berkeley Magnet School for Smart Dogs. God help us if we should ever misplace the mangy pup.

Bob Bear: Zachary actually inherited Bob Bear from his father. He is old and not particularly cute. He goes to bear school where he learns bear stuff, or so I am told. He is 198 years old, and has frequent birthdays, so my best guess is that bear years are much different than people years. We frequently call Bob Bear from Zachary's "cell phone" while we are traveling in the car.

Bob Junior: Bob Junior is a mini Bob Bear that 30 years ago was also daddy's. Bob Junior is Mr. Brown Doggies brother, it is a mystery to me seeing as they are different species. We don't know much more about Bob Junior, perhaps time will uncover more interesting details.

Vegan Bear: Yes, you read that correctly VEGAN Bear. This bear was one that my mother and I lovingly picked out when Zack was six months old at Build-A-Bear. Today Zachary describes him as a bear who's favorite food is lettuce and who is sort-of-mean. I would be mean too if all I got to eat was lettuce.

Zachary also has human friends- he especially loves his new friend Eli. Eli is beloved. Zachary recently informed me that he wished Eli was his brother instead of Evan and that he could live at Eli's house forever and ever. Finn is a best Denver friend. Zachary got to spend the night at Finn's house yesterday which was an amazing treat. Zachary and Finn spent a good deal of the previous evening chasing each other naked around the Cruwys Christmas tree. I think Finn's father was a little bit nervous about what this might possibly foreshadow, but I am hopeful that this was just little boy fun.

The one person still not on Zack's friend list is his little brother. The very brother who follows him around like a little puppy. Zachary still fantasizes about Evan's possible demise. He has wondered about Evan getting lost in Africa in a rain storm, or being left on the mountain side. Yet, every now and then if we watch very closely we see a glimpse of potential brotherly love. A giggle here and there, a toy shared.... I know the time is coming. Perhaps some day Evan may even find a spot in Zack's heart, one that could even take the place of MBD.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Hello from Denver...wish you were here.

I'm home. That's right. Denver stills feel like home-sweet-home. I'm not writing much, because I am at my girlfriend's house sipping a cocktail and the boys are watching Monsters Vs. Aliens. I just wanted to put it out there that we did survive. After a 2 hour flight delay, a mal-functioning DVD player, and a broken cell phone-here we are, and actually it feels GREAT. I love it here.

Okay, so it has only been two months, so how much stock can you put in this statement, but it just feels like no time has past. This is my place. Denver how I love thee.

But traveling stinks, so maybe we should just move back. Really I can't tell you it was better than expected. Yes, nobody exploded mid-flight however, food was flung in every direction, Evan tried to rip my ears off, and the whole trip was no less than a life-sucking exhausting experience. So... therefor, if we could simply remove the travel-back-to-the-place-I-love element, and just live here, all would be grand.

Okay. I am being a rude guest and must say goodbye. Goodbye, and stay tuned...

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Very Superstitious

HELP! HEEELLP! I have 13, that is 1-3 followers on my site. Oh thank you, thank you, to the 13th follower. Whatever motivated you to start reading my silly ol' blog I'll never, ever know, BUT this I am aware of...13 is an unlucky number. I may have to abandon this whole thing all together if MR. 14 does not show himself soon..... here Mr 14, here Mr. 14 I have treats! I promise. I'm witty! I'm silly! I make fun of my very own self. You'll love me I swear. Please, just please come around because 13 makes me very uncomfortable....

But lets be honest. Scan the list of my followers... can you find a KARGAS on it? No? Well that is funny, because you might think my very own husband would follow the ramblings of his beloved wife. Alas, no. No. Absent. GUILT TRIP.

So if it so behoves you, please sign up to follow, because I so hate the number 13...

Love and no superstition,

Monday, December 14, 2009

Don't be Tiger Woods

Okay, one last post before I head out of town. I simply can't help myself. I know that the media is saturated with Tiger Woods commentary and gossip, but I feel the need to contribute my two cents.

I am disgusted. Disappointed. Disheartened. I'm not a golf fan or a sports fan of any sort for that matter, however even I know who Tiger is. That baby face. So handsome, so clean cut. It is hard not to cheer for him. He is a bit of an inspiration. A young champion in a stuffy world of old white men. He is a role model. Yes he is. Does anyone else remember the "I'm Tiger Woods" ad campaign? Children wanted to be him. Parents wanted their offspring to turn out just like Tiger.

How are we feeling about that now mom and dad? While I would certainly applaud Zack or Evan becoming a billion dollar athlete, I honestly believe I would be much more rewarded if my children grew up to behave as good and decent men. While I don't know the facts it certainly appears that Tiger didn't merely make an isolated mistake of infidelity, this husband and father was cheating with multiple women. I pray that my children are never Tiger Woods.

My husband argues that we could expect nothing more of a famous professional athlete, and that in fact we should not care about their personal lives. He told me "We don't know him, he is just a man that is very talented at a sport. A great athlete, we should leave it at that". I think it is a bit more complicated. I look at this way, why does my husband worship the Twins? Is it because they are the all-time greatest baseball team in history? No. It's because they represent something he cares about, his home town. We cheer for the underdog in Olympic contests because they inspire us. Kids worship NBA stars because of their success and their cool image. Tiger also had an image, an image that along with talent led to his fame and wealth.

That image is gone. So does he deserve to continue to reap it's benefits with multi-million dollar endorsement contracts? In my opinion no. It was his job to uphold and live up to what he was selling us-Mr. Clean-Cut, All-American Family Man. If Nike believes a father of two small children who cheats on his wife with multiple partners still represents the brand's values, then who am I to argue?

I am guessing that my husband might take this argument one step further and say that the media should not be covering stories like this to begin with. We should leave private lives private. I might agree with that myself, however in reality this is not the current state of the universe, the media is ruthless and I am quite positive Mr. Woods is also well aware of this. He should have watched is behind and behaved like an upstanding human being. He had a lot on the line.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

You're Going To Miss Me.

Admit it, you are going to miss me. I know that you tune in daily and are riveted by my witty, thought provoking ramblings (wink,wink). Alas, as I embark on a 12 day journey to visit friends and family, I will be torn away from one of my greatest loves, the INTERNET.

While I know that my fingers will be itching to type away award worthy blog essays, I do not know that I will have access to a computer during my travels. Lord knows that I will be collecting materials while away. Come on what is better fodder for a mama blog than air travel with small children and a holiday with the in laws???

Rest assure that within about 24 hours of touching back down in California, I will be on line with blow by blow coverage of the Kargas family Christmas. You'll get more information than you bargained for, and more than likely it will be read-worthy. So please folks, have a happy, happy holiday... and don't abandon me. We are just getting started. I will return home on December 28th, and will be back a bloggin' soon.

Until then my cyber friends....

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Facebook Wars

It can get ugly on Facebook. Verbal sparing with friends of friends. Bitch slaps through cyber-space. Unfriending the ultimate betrayal. U-G-L-Y.

I love Facebook. I am one of those annoying people who updates my status twice a day, and I am rarely witty. "Off to the grocery store!" "Eating a bagel! Yummy!" But it helps me to feel connected with friends that are far away, and to get to know new acquaintances a little better. And lets be honest who doesn't love sneaking a peek at the photos of your old high school "friends"? Who got fat? Who lost their looks? Dang! You know she got a boob job. It's like going to a high-school reunion without having to actually show up.

But then there is the down side of the so called social networking sight. The political posts. The TMI posts. And the fights. I have in fact been involved in a couple of these online arguments myself. The first tiff involved a guy from high school who I had no business being "friends" with in the first place because well, we never were friends. Yet he felt the need to comment on a post in which I had mentioned of all things breastfeeding. It was a very benign comment by the way. The mere mention of breastfeeding made the poor fellow's ears burn. He is a delicate flower I suppose. He responded saying that he is offended by open displays of breastfeeding and apparently the mere mentioning of the foul behavior bothered him. I let the comment slide, but some of my facebook friends, including my mother and brother in-law responded, and a facebook war ensued. Words like racist, ignorant and childish were used. The ultimate result... the dude defriended me. But I wanted to defriend him first. No fair!

More recently, I commented on a friend's post about her baby who refuses to sleep. I told her that the cry-it-out method worked well for me. Well another individual, who is not my friend, decided to publicly criticize my parenting choices. She basically told everyone that the thought of making a child cry themselves into exhaustion, forcing the baby to "pass out" made her very uncomfortable. Good lord, the way she put it, I am basically an abusive monster of a mama. Well I took the higher road, and responded with a simple "it worked for me!" and let it go. I wanted to give her a piece of my mind for humiliating me on facebook, but instead... I am venting my frustrations to you, my lucky readers.

There have been other arguments as well, I got in a disagreement with a stranger about a ridiculous video a mutual friend had posted. The presentation claimed that Obama was a Muslim, and it basically insinuated that being a Muslim was equivalent to devil worshipping. I didn't like the video, the stranger disagreed, it wasn't pretty.

So I suppose Facebook puts us in contact with people we might not otherwise come across, which isn't necessarily a bad thing. Perhaps people get a little more bold when in email land, and we aren't as polite as we should be. It is a small price to pay for the privilege of easily telling 160 people the most minute details of my life and in turn, learning what my friends are cooking for dinner half way around the world....

Thursday, December 10, 2009

It's still home.

In less than a week the boys and I are headed back "home". I am braving the friendly skies alone with the munchkins. The husband is staying behind to earn a living and will join us in Albuquerque for Christmas. Am I excited, well yes... but perhaps a better adjective would be PETRIFIED. Teeth chattering, bone shaking, nausea inducing fear. Two frantic children, above the clouds, trapped in tight corridors with no escape. Trekking through airports toting two car seats, Christmas gifts and gear to last us two weeks away from home base. Nap schedule be damned. Routine-out the window. Destination: Melt-Down City. All aboard....

But it will be good right? Right? Someone say right. Right Now.

I'll be back in the neighborhood a few days. I'll see the friends I miss. I'll drive past The House. The 3000 square foot house that I came home to after the birth of both of my sons. The House on our beloved street. Perhaps I'll run into old neighbors. The neighbors who always said hello to us. The neighbors who invited us for wine and birthday parties. They will all ask... so how is Berkeley? How do you like it out there?

Well truth be told, I like it fine. Just fine. Good weather. Sight-seeing every weekend. It's good.

But going back, it will be bittersweet. It will remind me of what I left behind. I am afraid that my life today will pale in comparison to the comfort of my Denver home, family and friends.

So okay.... there is the traveling alone with a four year old and an 18 month old who refuses to be carried, and there is the possible pain of leaving loved ones once again, but can I let that stop me? No, we are Denver-bound, for better or for worse. I'll brave the flight. I'll brave the cold. I'll brave the possible "I miss you tears". I have to go. It's still home.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

New Mom vs. Experienced Mom

New Mom: On daycare picture day orders the Super-Deluxe package including a wall-size print, six 8x10's, twelve 5x7's, 56 wallet photos, tote bag with child's photo imprinted on it and a bonus Christmas ornament.

Experienced Mom: Out of guilt purchases the mini-package including only six wallet photos. Who are we kidding, Junior just isn't that photogenic.

New Mom: Enjoys special shopping trips to carefully pick out a very coordinated wardrobe from favorite kiddie stores, Gymboree or Baby Gap. Her son will be the cutest on the playground!

Experienced Mom: Seriously contemplates buying son a pleated shirt with a slight ruffle at the collar found at local thrift shop. It's super cheap and doesn't have any (noticeable) holes.

New Mom: Whips out spare outfit at the first splatter of spaghetti sauce.

Experienced Mom: If the clothing item isn't visibly growing mold, it's probably just fine.

New Mom: Worries constantly about child's diet. Is he getting enough protein? Vitamin A? Fiber? Why won't she eat blueberries, all kids eat blueberries. If she doesn't eat blueberries how will she get her antioxidants?

Experienced Mom: A fruit roll up counts as a meal.... right?

New Mom: Records every milestone in baby's memory book. "First time baby sat up" "first time baby smiled" "first time junior blew his nose by himself".

Experienced Mom: There is no need to write all of this down sweetie, how could I forget it?

New Mom: Has a constant children's sing-along at home. Packs away own CD's in favor of Music Together compilations and Disney soundtracks.

Experienced Mom: Tries to instill an interest "real" music and is in constant search for profanity-free lyrics.

New Mom: Hires an expert to come in and offer child proofing tips to keep her precious darling safe.

Experienced Mom: Instead of baby-proofing, attempts to reason with child-the cost of anything you break is coming directly out of your college fund.

I could go on and on......

Monday, December 7, 2009


I was truly inspired to write a post about a god-awful Christmas song that I heard while listening to our local bay area light-rock station. Honestly, you may think you know from bad music but you haven't heard anything until you've tuned into this gem. I'll put it this way the lyrics feature barbecued boar. No, I'm not kidding. Nothing says Christmas like barbecued boar am I right?

Any who, thinking about how hilarious my post would be, I decided that I would google the lyrics so I could include them in my story. Sadly, the search lead me to a fellow blogger who already did a piece on the very topic. Apparently I am not all that original. Who knew. Well her comments were ridiculously funny, dare I say that she is far more articulate than I am and therefor I decided to provide a link.

Beyond pointing out how painfully bad this particular musical creation is, I also intended to make a larger point. It is so not like Christmas out here. When the best thing a song can feature about the holiday season in the bay area is barbecued boar and the golden gate bridge-you know there is something wrong with the picture. What does the golden gate bridge have to do with Christmas anyway? As far as I know the landmark stands year round.

Some how the city of Berkeley seems to be particularly cheer-less. I have driven around our neighborhood in search of gaudy light displays and the inflatable snowman that are so popular in Denver and I have been disappointed to find almost nothing. A few weak attempts at decorations- maybe a wreath here or there, but overall it seems a bit grinchy around these parts.

Sadly, I have let the lack of Christmas spirit rub off on me. We in fact have no Christmas tree this year. Depressing I know. I have reasoned that we are headed out of town for the holidays and that we won't even be here. We just moved and all of the Christmas decorations and ornaments are packed away. Quite frankly I can't face the idea of unpacking all the little trinkets, and sweeping up all the prickly pine needles. It's just too much work. But still. Zachary inquired about our lack of a tree and I explained that Aunt Amanda & Uncle Michael will have a tree at their house in New Mexico. However we aren't even staying in their home, we are going to be in a tree-less 2 bedroom vacation property with my in laws. Fa-la-la-la-la. Don't get me wrong, I adore my my brother-in-law and his family and I am looking forward to spending time with them-yet there is something that just feels wrong about waking up without a tree in a strange home on Christmas morning.

So there you have it folks. For the first year in ages Rachel is the big fat scrooge. I'm hanging on for Valentine's Day.

Sunday, December 6, 2009


Jogging is my exercise of choice. It's free, requires no equipment and you can do it almost anywhere. On my good days, I could almost say that I enjoy it. I like the time to myself, the feeling of my body in motion and the sense of accomplishment. Most days however, it is more of a chore, bordering on self-torture.

Today was one of the bad days.

I head out the door around 9am. It is a Sunday so Dave watches the boys and I don't need to push the jog stroller which is a relief. It's later than I meant it to be and the weather is warmer than I anticipated. I over dressed. This is only my second work out this week. No real excuses, I have become a weekend only exerciser. Not the best fitness plan admittedly, but I am L-A-Z-Y.

After a block or two of brisk walking I break into a jog. And by that I mean a slow jog. A real runner would probably consider it speed walking, but I am going to stick with jogging. About five minutes into my run I am already regretting the second cup of coffee I had this morning. I can feel liquid sloshing around in my stomach and I am starting to get a stitch in my side. I knew this was going to suck.

I trudge on, congratulate myself for getting out there. It is just as I am starting to psych myself up for the rest of the journey "Go Rachel! You are a rock star. Most of America can't even run 2 miles!" I see a ridiculously fit hot couple running toward me. She is petite with calves of steel. Her hair pulled back in a neat pony tail, her muscular thighs in light blue spandex, and a fashionable running t-shirt. He is ripped and talking to her without showing any sign of exertion. Crap. I look down at my own ensemble. Fleece pants meant for running in the Denver snow which I purchased last year when I was a heck of a lot skinnier so on-top of the fact that they are stupid warm for the balmy Berkeley weather, they are also less than flattering. My shirt is a running top from REI, which would be fine if it weren't for the baby snot stains on my shoulder.

Onward. I hit the mile mark. Only a mile??? I am at the corner of Sacramento & Dwight, at the HomeMade Cafe, a delightful and popular neighborhood breakfast spot. As I approach I can smell bacon grease, maple syrup and coffee. I sneak a peek as I run by. Families enjoying breakfast together, laughing over short stacks. Singles lingering over coffee with the new york times. Hung over college students in sweats letting the alcohol absorb into fluffy biscuits and gravy. Jealous much? The sight reminds me of my days in Minneapolis. Heading out on a cold winter morning to drink coffee and sip bloody marys in a souvenir pint glass at the Uptown Tavern. We have a whole cabinet of bloody glasses to prove that it actually happened. A. Long. Time. Ago. At least I don't have to burn of those calories I tell myself, pressing on.

I'm not getting any faster. My legs feel like five ton weights. I'm not even half way done.

I turn on to San Pablo, a street lined with thrift shops and international markets. I can usually distract myself by looking in the windows and making mental notes of future shopping destinations. Today I run by a nursery selling Christmas trees. For some reason as I hear the crunch of fallen leaves under my feet and I feel the sweat beading on my forehead this depresses me. I start to think about how un-christmasy it feels here in Berkeley. To be passing by flowering bushes and fall colors and to feel down right hot on my morning jog. Bah-Humbug.

The rest of my run is uphill. Mind you not a steep climb, but when I am running anything more than perfectly flat qualifies. A homeless man yells at me "Work it out lady! Run!". If he was trying to inspire me, it worked, I am running the hell away from him. Uphill. Well sort-of.

Finally home is four blocks away, so I slow my already snail-pace to a walk. Done. My fleece pants are sticking to me. I cannot wait to tear them off. Until next weekend...

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Mama Strike

I want to go on a strike. A diaper changing strike. I house cleaning strike. A laundry strike. A cooking hiatus. I sabbatical from being responsible. See the thing is, I started out doing these things with a pleasant attitude. But these tasks are never done. The diapers keep coming, and coming. I'll change one and think I am good for a couple of hours and head out of the house to run errands. It's usually at a store or a park sans changing table that I realize Iv been called back to the line of duty...and I forgot the wipes. And these kids, they keep eating. Well sort of. One morning I make them gourmet scrambled eggs with sauteed veggies and three kinds of cheese and they gobble it up. Then the very next morning they are screaming for more, only to turn their noses up at the meal when it arrives at the table, they would prefer a frozen waffle please.

And the cleaning. Don't get me started. Yes I admit it- I pay a lovely cleaning woman to visit us every other week and de-funk our home, but only days later the place is a pit and I am chasing everyone around with a broom. The animals keep shedding, and someone keeps throwing cheerios on the floor. The tiny house looks like a tornado went through by 8 am.

As far as this responsibility thing goes.... it can be boring. Even when granted a rare grown-up night out without children, we are checking our cell phones, and watching the clock. We don't want to get home past ten. The rug rats still rise at 6am, and they are hungry, and thirsty, and need their DIAPERS changed. What happened to staying out past midnight and not waving the waitress away after only two drinks saying "I can't possibly". Okay so I have a sensible mom hair-do, but I still want to let it down so to speak.

Before a loyal reader calls social services on me, I promise I love my children.... I just want a little break. A no-mothering-duties-what-so-ever week. Or weekend, I won't be greedy.

Speaking of diapers. My temporary strike is over. The odor wins.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Meter Maid

I yelled at a meter maid today. Yelled at her. Told her this city was messed up, and stalked off. I was pissed off. My meter must have expired by all of 2 minutes and I got slapped with a $40 ticket. I seriously do not understand how this state could possibly be broke with the money they must be raking in from innocent parents just trying to pick their children up from preschool. The parking in Berkeley outright sucks. You have to pay to do just about anything around here. Even after you plug your meter you are still on a short leash. You better set an alarm. You have TWO HOURS, and then you need to remove your vehicle or be prepared to pay the hefty price. That is all you get around here-two hours, which may be good for the meter maids, but could not possibly be working out too well for shop owners. You park your car on upscale Solano, go grab some lunch, maybe get your nails done, and it sure would be nice to stop into the trendy shoe store across the street, but opps, gotta go move my car. Prada can wait. But today, all I wanted to do was pick up my son from school. I plugged the meter for 25 minutes which should have been plenty of time, but Evan had a diaper emergency, Zack forgot his lunch box, and I got caught up in some playground drama. I was told by an eye-witness that the official in the little white car sat there waiting for my meter to expire, and bounded out of her door less vehicle as soon as the meter flashed red. I saw that nasty city employee three cars down from mine as I emerged from school. I tried to argue with her, but it was useless. She had a quota to meet. We have a budget to balance. I have a bone to pick.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Deep thoughts, with Rachel Kargas

Kids ask hard questions. The why questions that make us search our brain to recall the lessons in meteorology or chemistry that we learned back in high school. The questions we have forgotten to be curious about. There are the ones we expect. "Why is the sky blue?" "Why is the grass green?" And the ones that take us off guard "We aren't ever going to die right?" Oh Lord. For the most part the questions remind me consider the shear magic of every day life, but there are other inquires that I haven't thought much about since I was a child, and for good reason. They frighten me.

The questions about death started recently when someone at preschool brought up the topic of Michael Jackson's demise. "Mommy, why is Michael Jackson dead?" Hmmmm... good question. I decided it was best not to dive into the possible homicide case and instead dodged the inquiry all together. (Cookies anyone??) But a few days later we were paging through Zachary's baby book and came upon a photo of his great grandfather, Leonard who passed away about a year after Zack's birth. Zachary looked at his photograph and asked "Who is that mommy?" "Your great grandfather Leonard" I answered. "Will I ever see him?" he wanted to know. "No sweetie, you won't." "Mommy why?" "Well because grandpa Leonard died". "Why did he die mommy?" I responded that grandpa was very old and that when you get very old your body stops working. He looked at me nervously and said "But your not going to die right?" I told him yes, that someday I would but that it wouldn't be for a very long time. With fear in his eyes he said "Are you going to leave me alone?" Oh sweetie.... I tried to alleviate his fears and tell him that it wouldn't be for a very, very long time when he was a grown up and I was old. Then I changed the subject.

I hate discussing or thinking about death. I remember as a child I would lie in bed and wonder about it and I would feel a cold fear in the pit of my stomach that I simply could not shake. My mother told me once that it was something I need not worry about, that by the time I was even close to death, I would be much older and then I would understand it better. This truly comforted me and I believed that some day I would no longer fear dying. Now Zachary has questions. I don't have the gift of religion to fall back on. I don't believe in pearly gates and angels sitting on puffy clouds playing harps. I wish I did. I wish I could tell Zachary that someday he would see his great grandfather in heaven, but I can't, not with a straight face anyways. And so I told him what my own mother told me. He remains curious, but I think I have placated him for now. For now. Until perhaps his own child asks him "What happens when we die daddy?"

Deep thoughts for a Tuesday night.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Pinch Me

Sometimes I have to pinch myself. Do we really live here? As we crossed the bay bridge today we had the most spectacular view of the city and the golden gate bridge. It was like a post-card came to life and we were sitting in the middle of it. "Wish you were here!" At Golden Gate Park today it was hard to believe that we were not tourists on vacation. Our family was there with other residents, spending a Sunday afternoon in what I would dare say is one of the prettiest city parks in the country. Last weekend it was the boardwalk in Santa Cruz, dim sum in China Town and sea lions on Pier 39. Our weekends are ridiculously fun, and I have to admit that I love being able to share these experiences with my children.

Growing up in the Midwest our weekend outings consisted of a drive to Mt. Horeb (otherwise known as Mt. Horrible) to tour a tiny main street and eat at a greasy spoon diner. While living in Minneapolis our get ways included frigid Duluth, the dreaded Mall of America, or a stay at the same old B&B in Stillwater. Things did get far more interesting once we relocated to Denver. In the mile high we enjoyed hiking the mountains and spending sunny afternoons at Coors Field, but the bay area my friends is the bomb. Of course there are the trade offs. My 1200 square foot home was "cute" for about three weeks and now I am entirely sick of feeling like a caged animal living in a piggy pen. The hour it took us to cross the bridge into San Fran yesterday to visit my girlfriend was no picnic either. So there are pros and cons I suppose, but for tonight anyway, I'll put on a rare show of optimism and admit there is a lot to like here.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Shalom, it's Christmas time!!!

"Shalom! It's Christmas time!" I wish that I could tell you that those words came out of my kid's mouth, but alas, it was one of his classmates. Although Zachary didn't think to put the "Shalom" and "Christmas time" together himself, he is certainly living the dream.

Since moving to Berkeley Zachary now attends the JCC for preschool. For those of you who do not know, JCC stands for Jewish Community Center. In Denver we probably knew one or two Jewish families, and here we have been surrounded by Jews. It has been a great experience for me and it feels really great to be able to expose Zachary to my heritage. The problem is... well, I am a Christmas Jew. Or that is what my husband likes to call me. Dave isn't Jewish and I have been celebrating Christmas myself since I was ten years old. And by celebrating, I mean really, really embracing the holiday cheer. Now let me explain. I am not talking about "the reason for the season", no Jesus here. It's the whole Santa, Christmas tree, and sparkly lights thing that does it for me. I love the music, the stockings, the gift giving and the parties. Really, Hanukkah doesn't have a chance against the fat man in the red suit. I mean come on, fried hash browns (aka, latkes), and a menorah? That has nothing on Bing Crosby, Rudolf, fudge and jingle bells. So I love Christmas, and my kids do too.

Recently David asked me sheepishly "those kids at preschool aren't going to tell Zack that there is no Santa are they?". Man, I hope not. But it got me thinking. Will we become the social pariahs of our Jewish preschool because our four year old blabs about his Christmas tree to his classmates? My fears were alleviated today however when I got to chatting with a couple of mothers from preschool at a play date. They admitted to me that they too have inter-faith families and that their homes will be adorned with Christmas decorations. It was one of those mother's in fact who told me how her son made up the "Shalom, it's Christmas time" song. She was equally concerned about how her son's Christmas spirit may be received at preschool and she was clearly relieved to see that there were other families who "go both ways", so to speak. Apparently, we fit right in at the JCC.

I am happy to say that Zack can have his Yule Log and eat his latkes too.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Good Morning


I am not quite sure what time morning officially started, but breakfast time at six years old meant sitting on the kitchen floor in front of the heating vent. "I'm cold" I would whine to my mother who would then allow me to dress right in that very spot with the warm air blowing, keeping me warm. Then I would start in on a bowl of Grapenuts served up in a Milwaukee Brewer's souvenir baseball cup. The uber healthy cereal would quickly be covered with a thick layer of pure sugar, which would eventually sink to the bottom making sweet milk which I would slurp down at the end of the meal. Saturday mornings meant the smurfs and the muppet babies, and an occasional McDonald's run-nothing like processed pork product and orange drink mmmmm....


8th Grade. I woke up in my own room for the first time in my life. We moved into my step-father's home when my parents remarried and my sister and I were both allowed to design our own bedrooms. Mine was rose pink carpet and a matching white furniture set. Yet those mornings were difficult ones. It was a year plagued with migraine headaches and insomnia. I would pull myself out of bed, exhausted and unhappy. I would fuss over what to wear, realizing that no matter what I put on I would never look cool. I would head to my new school feeling unpopular and alone. That was a crappy year.


The high school years. I would awake to the sound of my alarm, and rush to be the first in our family's only shower. I would then spend a ridiculous amount of time in my room "doing" my hair. This meant a curling iron and way to much hairspray. Steve Miller Band's Greatest Hits was the soundtrack to the morning ritual. I would head off to school, backpack slung over one shoulder and walk a 1/2 mile to school, sometimes in the freezing cold-always without a hat (I wouldn't want to mess up that fabulous hair I slaved over). Each school day started with a little flutter of anticipation, maybe today he would talk to me, would I ace the Spanish test?, did I get into the school play? It was a time of angst and possibility.


College. On the best mornings I woke up next to my boyfriend (now my beloved husband!). Those were great days, there was nothing more encouraging then waking up to the guy you loved, even if he did wreak of stale beer and weed. Other days I would get up in time to hit the gym or the lake shore path for a run before class. The rest of my morning would be spent in lecture or at the library drinking coffee and munching a one pound bag of Chiclets. I loved studying. It was quite and productive. I felt very alive.


A newly wed living in uptown Minneapolis. I would awaken every morning with two kitties snuggled in bed with me. I would usually rise before the sun did and get an early start on my work day. I would get dressed in a very conservative work-appropriate outfit, taking inspiration from my mother-in-law's Talbot's wardrobe (what was I thinking?), I would stop and grab a coffee from Brueggers and arrive at my desk by 7:30am. I had my own office. I must be a grown-up.


Now in Denver I would often get up by 5:45 in time for a morning jog through our highlands neighborhood. I would hit the pavement just as all the sprinkler systems were kicking in, and I would run past the little brick bungalows admiring the landscaping and getting ideas for my own yard in our very first home. My husband and I would catch the bus downtown, and walk along the 16th street mall to the Tabor Center where we both worked. I wore Ally McBeal inspired suits and felt like a hip young business woman. I had a fancy office with beautiful furniture, and enough money to buy a latte each and every day.


I haven't had the need for an alarm clock in four years. I am awoken at 5:15 by the sounds of a raucous stuffed animal party. So much noise. Why are preschoolers so very loud? I cover my head with a pillow attempting to drown out the noise, to no avail. By 6:00 the party is joined by a crib sing-along "mommy! daddy! mommy! daddy!" over, and over, and over again. I procrastinate. I lie there a little longer until it escalates. Time to get up. Time to get everyone dressed. "I'm hungry" demands Zachary. "Please" Evan persists. Now we go downstairs where I play short-order cook. "More milk!" "I don't like this french toast" "Can I have waffles instead?" "I spilled". "Please" "Please" "I ruined my shirt!", "Bark! Bark!" (that's dog for feed me too damn it!) Now it's 8am and I still haven't had my first cup of coffee. I hurry for a 45 second shower... and then rush Zack to preschool. Now I breath. The day will start. I'll go to Gymboree, or the marina, or for a jog, the possiblities are endless. It's going to be a beautiful day.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Giving Thanks

There has been a great deal of chatter amongst the preschool crowd regarding Thanksgiving. Specifically, giving thanks. There is list making to be done, and even songs to be sung. On a recent post preschool afternoon Zachary informed me that he was thankful for the following things "Mommy & Daddy, preschool, Mr. Brown Doggie, grandparents, food and friends". "Great list Zack!" I responded, following up with "But I think you forgot something. Is there anyone else that you are thankful for". "No!" He said emphatically. "I am NOT thankful for my brother". Now that's the thanksgiving spirit kid.

But who am I to judge? I don't know that I am really exuding Thanksgiving cheer when topping my list of blessings this year (besides the usual suspects-family, health, home, yada, yada, yada) is the fact that I am damn thankful not to be hosting Thanksgiving dinner on Thursday. That's right for the first time in years our family will simply be a guest at someone elses table. Hallelujah. I know that probably sounds a bit Scrooge like, but I have to admit that I have never particularly enjoyed hosting big family holidays. I do love my extended family but I feel that there are more pleasant ways to show it than packing everyone around a too-small table piled high with the type of food that could easily result in a heart-attack, and that spawns all of those after-the-holiday diet and fitness club marketing blitzes. In my house hosting Thanksgiving dinner means my husband feels he has carte blanche to destroy the kitchen, pulling out every cooking apparatus that we own to create cajun sausage stuffing, three different kinds of sweet potatoes, and greens fried in bacon grease, he won't be satisfied with the ordinary. It drives me nuts, all of that preparing, all of that mess, all for a meal that takes roughly 15 minutes to consume and then another two hours to clean up. And then....the leftovers. As if one evening of consuming a bird stuffed with it's own organs isn't enough, we have to continue on with it for days after.

So this year I am breathing a huge sigh of relief that our only responsibility is to show up at my Aunt's house with a bottle of wine and one of my husband's cooking inspirations (this year-Stuffin' Muffins). I'll leave the mess and the leftovers to someone else, and for that I am truly grateful. Bah-Humbug.

Friday, November 20, 2009


I have a big ol' bruise on my forehead. It hurts. I got it while I was cleaning our toilet. I was bending over and the lid fell down and whacked me in the head. I saw stars. I knew it was going to leave a mark. Glamours I thought. Figures. I get injured performing my housewife duties. I feel as though it is a perfect metaphor for my lousy week. I just feel a little beat up tonight. It has been a difficult week. Maybe a little empty after my busy weekend with Shannon & Heather. I had several play dates and get togethers planned, but all but a few fell through due to illness or whatever else comes up in everybody's busy lives. I spent time with Evan at the park observing mostly nannies and their client's children, or people meeting up for play dates. Everyone seemed content but I felt, well lonely, and useless. Sure, I am taking care of my kids, but I have to admit I feel lazy and a little alone. The shiny newness of the city has worn off, as has my enthusiasm and energy for searching out new friends. I'm tired. The rejection is getting to me. I'm bored. I want to feel a purpose. I need a hobby. I need a job. The market stinks. I haven't looked hard for a position, but the options seems sparse. Eventually I'll have to get off my rear and do something, to change the situation, but tonight I feel like licking my wounds and wallowing a little.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Merry Thanksgiving

I know. I know. I KNOW it is too early. We haven't even carved the Thanksgiving turkey yet, the pumpkin pies have yet to be baked, and we really should be fully focused on fall. And yet, I must admit I felt a twinge of good will when I turned on my favorite "light rock" station to hear Christmas carols. Yes, I am the one person you know who listens to "light rock", I admit that I have a strong affection for Billy Joel, Wham and I do believe that you can never hear "wind beneath my wings" too many times. I have discovered that it is always the light stations that turn their play lists over to holiday music around this time of year, and I will keep my radio tuned to the gluttony of forced holiday cheer until the 2009 fades into 2010.

I admit, I rolled my eyes as I walked into a Macy's shortly after Halloween to see the trees trimmed and the holiday marketing rolled out. Yet, the older I get the faster December flies by, and it starts to feel that the season just isn't long enough. I always have so many good intentions. We will have a family Hanukkah party and a neighborhood Christmas bash. We will go and see Zoo lights. I'll have Christmas tea with my best girlfriends. I will send greeting cards to all of our loved ones. I'll volunteer. There will be a cookie swap. We will take the boys to the mall with the best Santa. I'll try new recipes. I'll make gifts for all the neighbors. You get the idea. But the holiday season races by, and inevitably I accomplish very few of these goals. So maybe it isn't such a bad idea to stretch the season out a few weeks. And yet, it does seem a little silly to turn on the holiday tunes before we have even smelled a pumpkin pie.

But there is something so magical about those Christmas Carols. As I drove home this evening, with Frank Sinatra belting out Winter Wonderland, I felt a coziness that only the holidays can serve up. Somehow the streets seemed more animated. As I watched the pedestrians hurrying along Shattuck, I could almost envision a scene out of a Christmas Carole or the Nutcracker-busy shoppers in petticoats, and top hats carrying packages as fake crystal snow flakes fall from center stage. What can I say. I love it. I want it to last. Merry Thanksgiving....

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Girls Weekend

My visit with Shannon and Heather was fantastic. Really great. I felt a tad guilty that I didn't play much of a tour guide or a host. We mostly just hung out in Berkeley and stayed away from my home and children. We shopped along Solano and on the upscale Fourth Street. We had sushi, drank wine, and only ventured into San Francisco for one evening on the town. To me it was perfect. I haven't had a weekend like that in ages, and it took me back to my pre-children self. It was almost like the early days in Denver when Shannon and I would spend Saturday afternoons on Pearl Street or at Flatiron's shopping mall, only with less disposable income and more chatter about children than promotions, raises or crazy coworkers. Instead of shopping at the Peppercorn and Pottery Barn, picking up high-priced sparkly holiday candles and table settings we browsed consignment stores and spent a significant amount of time in two or three separate toy stores, purchasing trinkets for munchkins.

Saturday evening we went out in San Francisco, we dressed up, all three of us wearing the black-pants and dressy top uniform. We started with drinks at a low key bar in North Beach, and then went on to a lovely dinner at the Steps Of Rome. From there we found a hole in the wall bar, where a chunky older gentleman who claimed to be a former pro- boxer told me that I had an amazing neck, which prompted us to leave before our drinks were drained, lest he decide that he wanted to break it-creepy. Another reminder of how our lives have changed, rather than getting glances from hot young college boys, we have old graying men trying to pick up our drinks. We finished off the night with pastries at a little bakery, and arrived back at home by midnight. There were no shots of tequila, no dancing at trendy clubs, but it was just what I wanted. Good conversation with great friends. So I have grown up a little, but I can honestly say that one thing hasn't changed-there are still few things I appreciate as much as real friends.

The fact that Heather and Shannon left their families and spent their "hall pass" here in Berkeley with me, doing little more than window shopping says so much to me. I am touched and grateful, and looking forward to a lifetime of future girls weekends!

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Road Kill

Today as I was going for a stroll with Evan I came upon a peculiar if not touching scene. At first it looked like just another dead squirrel lying on the curb, maybe a casualty of an automobile encounter-road kill. But something caught my eye. The animal was clearly placed there by someone who had carefully laid the creature in the grass and had sprinkled a few bright pink flower pedals by it's head. Who would do such a thing? I mean who would touch a dead squirrel? But it was, well humor me, moving. Passing by dead animals on our walks or in our cars is an almost daily occurrence. We may see a baby bird crushed on the sidewalk, broken wings and neck, such a fragile tiny creature, and we pass by. Or a deer on the side of the highway, once graceful and sleek, now lying open eyed, rotting on pavement. We speed by. What is one to do really? Bring a sack of flowers and plastic gloves along on every outing just in case we happen upon death?

But still, how little regard it shows for life to simply look the other way. I will be honest. Death creeps me out. I have really never touched a dead anything before. I stood helpless after I watched my neighbors fluffy white dog get hit by a car. I couldn't move it's crushed body to the side of the road, I had a passing mail carrier do it. I was so thankful that he rescued me from the task. He picked up the lifeless body and moved him over to the curb. He maneuvered one of the dog's floppy ears over his open eyes.

When I saw that squirrel with the flowers around it's little head I felt gratitude to the person who gave the rodent a bit of dignity in death, who showed some feeling for a fallen fellow living being. I highly doubt I will follow in this stranger's footsteps, but I would like to meet him, and shake his (gloved) hand.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Dear Tummy

Dear Tummy,

Thank you. I am forever in your debt. You gave me two beautiful children. Tummy, you provided a safe home and nourishment to my babies before they were even born. You created life. I have endless gratitude for you.


Dear Tummy,

Would you please go away? I hate you. You repulse me. All your roundness. Your mushiness. You have no sense of style. You are not at all fashionable. Please I just want you to disappear.

Go bother Paris Hilton for a while. I am sure she has never met anyone quite like you.


Dear Tummy,

You deserve a medal. You stretched to an inhuman shape and accommodated an almost 8 pound baby. You survived two c-sections and still function normally. You are truly amazing.

With admiration,

Dear Tummy,

Don't you see you embarrass me? I do everything I can to hide you. I try to disguise you with loose fitting blouses. I have experimented with every type of denim available, yet there you are. You give away all my dirty secrets. You are happy to display every ounce of weight I gain. You show my lack of discipline, you have to tell everyone that I just can't seem to stick to sit-ups and that I have no interest in yoga and Pilate's. You're such a blabber mouth.

Please Tummy, please you're not wanted here.

Please do not try to contact me again,

Dear Tummy,

I understand that we are stuck together for better or for worse. It seems that you are unwilling to leave me, and my children still have a fondness for you-you make a nice pillow. We are going to have to find a way to coexist. Maybe we can strike a compromise. I will try to love you more, if you could try to take up just a little less space.


Friday, November 6, 2009

Broken Record

I feel like a broken record. One day I am on top of the world, the next day I am worn out and talking about needing vacation. It is cyclical. Good day/Great Day/Exhausted/Crabby. Today in the exhausted phase-bordering on crabby.

Hubby had his first Clorox business trip to New York City. He left on Wednesday and returned today. He came home very tired and ready for some R&R. I saw him and was ready to deposit the children in his care and run screaming from our house. "I have had enough!!!". Broken record-I know he is working, and my job is at home-but sometimes I get jealous! He called me last night from a little shop picking up trinkets for the boys, and was off to happy hour in NYC with former co-workers. All I could think was-Damn! You are in the best city in America, with no children-I would KILL for one night like that! I would kill for one night in a hotel room with my TV and room service. I know, I know, I KNOW-it isn't that easy. There are early morning flights and meetings, prep work, all that jazz, but still. So although I have no "job" myself, TGIF all the same. Thank God the husband is home. Thank God, he can help with Evan patrol.

Next weekend, my Denver girls are coming for a visit! Shannon and Heather are traveling out just to see me and needless to say I am forever thankful and so honored. Next weekend is my weekend. Husband-beware the kids are ALL YOURS! Have fun! I know I will.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Knock on Wood

I am afraid to put in writing. If I put it in writing the stars will align, lightning will strike and everything will be reversed. So I am going to spit twice, knock on wood and throw salt over my shoulder... and here it goes. Things are going well. Really well. Our house isn't so bad. The area is great. I love the marina, and I am actually meeting nice people. I am happy. It is like it has been too easy. So I am waiting for something bad to happen. That's how I roll. I worry. I complain. That's who I am. So to sit here and tell you, things are way better than I expected they would be, is very well, unexpected.

Today I hosted my very first playgroup in our new home. I have to give myself some kudos and say that I took some initiative to get this group together. I simply sent out an email to the Berkeley Parents Network a couple weeks ago and put it out there. I need some friends. Zack and Evan need some friends. It isn't as though I received an overwhelming response, in fact only three women actually showed up, but they were three very nice women, and a little boy Zack's age, who got along so well with him. It was a good playgroup, and I feel confident that we will see each other again soon, in fact there was already an email sent out to discuss next weeks play date.

So there you have it. A happy day. I'll leave it at that, and pray that I haven't jinxed it!

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Department of Motor Vehicles

Is there any place on earth more dreadful than the Department of Motor Vehicles? While I personally do not believe in hell, I think that if such a place did exist it would have a lot of similarities to the DMV. Really unless you are a 16 year old who was lucky enough to earn his or her drivers license, there are very few good reasons to visit the establishment. Most trips to the DMV are simply a hassle-replacing a lost or stolen driver's license, reinstating a drivers license taken away for some unfortunate reason or in my case getting your vehicle registered in a new state. All scenarios will usually involve long lines, cranky worker bees, and large fees.

Today I had the displeasure of visiting the El Cerrito DMV to register our car in California. My husband had already taken a stab at obtaining the necessary document earlier this morning, but left empty handed because he lacked some of the needed paperwork. I therefore had to return with my squirmy Evan in tow. I arrived to find our branch of the DMV looks very similar to any other government building I have visited throughout my life. A dingy old building which clearly hasn't been renovated or updated since 10-15 years before I myself obtained a Learner's Permit. The line to simply obtain a number was out the door. I immediately realized that forgetting the stroller at home was a bigger deal than I initially thought. I also saw that El Cerrito's Department of Motor Vehicles is blessed with the same shall we say, colorful characters as any other DMV across the country. What is it about the DMV that attracts the worst of our society? The folks who wreak of cigarette smoke, swear into their cell phones and pick their noses in public. I don't know. But this office had it all.

We waited in line. Evan did surprisingly well, munching on a piece of dried mango and charming the people around us. As we got closer to the head of the line, a fragile looking elderly woman dressed up in a blue polyester suit circa 1980 was escorted to the front underneath a sign that read " For those with appointments or the disabled". The woman behind me snickered then blurted to the DMV employee "Is that woman disabled? Why is she going to the front of the line?" The worker responded "Yes this line is for the disabled". The woman then snarled "She ain't disabled, I don't see no cane. Where is her cane if she's disabled?" The worker shrugged her off. Now I must admit, I was a little frightened at the idea of this very old looking woman possibly renewing her drivers license, but still, lets give the lady a break, she must have been 85 years old. Do long lines somehow omit the value of respecting your elders?

Finally we received a number and were waved to the seating area to stare at a television screen willing it to display my number- B158. We waited and waited. Evan started playing his favorite game "chase me". We had an audience and people laughed at our battle of wills. As I chased Evan past the same group of patrons for the 15th time a man looked at me and said "you have your hands full with that one!" "Yes" I agreed "This is his favorite game". "Him??" he replied. "Nah lady, that looks like a girl to me, shit". Ummm.... well he is my son and I probably spend 1/3 of my life changing his diapers, so I should know. Okay, mental note to self, I really do need to cut Evan's curly locks, but did that guy have to be so rude? Did he have to swear? Oh were at the DMV. I forgot.

Our turn arrived and I had to fork over $1501 (including a late fee of $273 for being ten days overdue on registering our vehicle after the move). I am now the proud owner of California license plates. Hurray.

As we were walking back through the parking lot and I was thanking my lucky stars that I finished in time to pick up Zachary from preschool we passed a woman talking loudly into her cell phone "Your a poor ass excuse for a dad" (she repeated this about five times), then "Your going to hell"... maybe he was meeting her at the DMV.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Toddler Time

What is it about toddlers? The goofy smile that melts your heart. The wild hair, the forever snotty nose, and filthy t-shirt. The sweet cuddles and the sly naughty hands that instinctively get into whatever is off-limits. My Evan has it all.

Most parents of a second child seem to say the same thing "I simply forgot". So very true. I forgot all the mischief and trouble making. The way shelves and drawers and meals are torn apart and their contents are strewn in every direction. The way they tear from room to room and have the inability to sit still for more than a minute or two. The tired feeling you have by 4:00 in the afternoon after chasing after your little rascal who so desperately wants his independence, yet really hasn't mastered the ability to do anything for himself. Exhaustion. Frustration. Adoration. All mixed in the lack-of-rest induced haze.

Most times I am overcome with love and pride for my 17 month old trouble-maker. Tonight however, after a day that seems to have extended far beyond the extra hour we received courtesy of the end of daylight savings time, I am wishing that I could put the little guy on a shelf for a while, and play with something else, preferably my television. I want a break. Not the kind of break you pay for by hiring a babysitter, and then feel as though you have to do something worthwhile. No just some mommy "quiet time". Time to watch bad TV or read People magazine. As I am writing this post the kids are on the floor playing with kitchen instruments. Daddy is here helping to referee the chaos, but I too must stop every sentence or two to rescue my glass of wine from tiny hands, or block my head from a swinging wooden spoon.

I know, I know this time will pass too quickly. Someday in the not so distant future I will have children who don't want to hang out in the living room with me, or require my constant attention. I'll kick myself then. I'll miss this chaos. But tonight I just want a little vacation... a break, some non-toddler time.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Happy Halloween

Happy Halloween y'all. How much difference one year can make. Last year I paraded down Tennyson for trick-or-treat street with Puff the Magic Dragon, a four month old "baby dragon" and my nephew the gnome. As we strolled the busy trendy neighborhood, I could barely go a block without stopping to chat with a fellow Highland mommy our a friend from playgroup, It was an amazing sense of community, and so much fun, for kids and parents alike. That evening we had non-stop trick-or-treators, and we took our own little dragons out for the event, stopping to chat with all of our neighbors along the way. A typical Denver Highland's Halloween.

Skip forward one year. Here we are in North Berkeley and having a significantly different experience. This year brought some rather uninspired costumes, Superman costumes ala Target. Zachary wore a much already-loved (AKA filthy) Superman Costume with built in muscles and Evan wore glamorized (and over sized) Superman pajamas-we called him "Superbaby". We enjoyed trick-or-treating on Solano Avenue, and it was enjoyable, although it felt a bit impersonal, and of course we knew no one. This evening we had only one (yes ONE) sad trick-or-treator. We took our superheros out for some door to door trick or treating and found all but a small handful of homes on our block with their blinds drawn and their front porch dark. We ventured a few blocks away and found a more spirited block, but still it wasn't the same.

Yes, we have had a good day and some solid family time, but the overflowing bowl of Hershey bars, Reese's peanut butter cups, and whoppers is a reminder of how different our lives are today..

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Daddy's new friends

Today as I was pushing the boys up the Berkeley hills in the stroller on our way to preschool, (a real work out if your not accustomed to it) Zack and I had one of our morning chats. Often times these stroller talks consist of garbage truck commentary and predictions of what our next meal will consist of. Today however Zachary wanted to talk about his Daddy. So as I huffed and puffed and struggled to maintain a pace slightly faster than that of a snail's, Zack blurted out "Daddy went out to play with his new Clorox friends last night, right mommy?" I considered this a moment, "Well I suppose that's true Zachary" I concurred. Daddy after all did go to happy hour (somewhat equivalent to "playing"), with his co-workers (potentially "friends" of a sort) last night. It occurred to me that Zachary must suspect that his Father's work is a little bit like his preschool, and that Daddy goes there to enjoy himself and eat lunch and snack with his friends.

As I pondered this further, I started to feel a little bit jealous of the husband. Now granted I do realize he is working, probably even hard, and that it might not always feel that enjoyable. Yet somehow having a life outside of our little house, preschool and our local parks sounds quite appealing after three weeks of living my stay-at-home-with-limited-friendships life. The prospect of a happy hour with no children, no discussion of napping patterns, eating habits or sibling rivalry is attractive at this point. For a four year old, Zack sure comes up with some gems. Yes, daddy did get to go and play last night, granted it was making nice with his co-workers, which ultimately secures the position which puts food on our table and pays for the gymboree classes, but he was out in the world, doing something completely separate from us.

Maybe this makes me sound ungrateful. Trust me I am fully aware that I am lucky to have the luxury of staying home and raising my boys. However there are some mornings when I am scrambling eggs, unloading the dishwasher, pouring more milk, packing up lunch and cleaning up cat puke, when I think about how nice it would be to sit at a desk with a hot latte, review my email and make office small talk. They say the grass is always greener on the other side. Perhaps if I were to land a job I would soon be bemoaning the fact that I don't have enough time with the kids, that the laundry never gets done, and the cost of daycare hardly makes it worth the effort. I'm not sure what the answer is. For now it is my job to stay at home and make the most of really, a lovely situation while daddy goes to play with his new buddies at Clorox.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

I have no post tonight, not really. Just playing and I am totally excited that I learned how to post pictures to my blog. Not that it was hard, I just never took the step to click on "help" to learn how to upload my pics. It is easy-piesy as it turns out. Here is the family on the BART. We are pretty cute no? PS-for those interested-yes, I contacted a lawyer. Watch out mama's mad!!

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

MasterSTINKS Deli

Okay, so I am angry. We are talking big time pissed off. Masterpiece Deli in Denver is on my list. I would be ever so happy to personally take that business DOWN. For those of you who faithfully follow my blog (Bueller? Bueller? Anyone?), you are aware of the incident at the Masterpiece. The visit to a restaurant that ended with Zack tripping and falling into the side of a broken, jagged refrigerator case giving him a gash that left him with eight stitches in his head on the day of his fourth birthday party. That was several weeks ago. The stitches are gone, but it seems evident that a scar will remain, and the photos of a 4 year old Frankenstein, blood crusted to his forehead, blowing out his birthday candles will be a reminder of the ambulance ride and the tears for years to come.

It was an accident yes, however, would anyone disagree that had the restaurant not left a broken-very sharp piece of laminate exposed that this would have resulted in a bruise and not a trip to the ER? And that perhaps, the owner might possibly wish to take responsibility for their facility and broken equipment? It doesn't seem that far fetched to me. Today I spoke with the owner of Masterpiece Deli about the events of September 26th and I was shocked by the sheer disrespect and lack of empathy that he displayed in response to my call. When I introduced myself to him and explained what had happened he was curt and rude. The very first thing Mr. Big-Time- Deli- Owner said to me was "This should be an interesting conversation. I wasn't there, but I heard about what happened. Your son fell, and hurt himself, and my question is-WHERE WAS THE PARENT?". That was his very first comment to me. There was no-"So how is your son?" or "I am so sorry about that". Nope. "WHERE WAS THE PARENT?" My response: "I was two steps behind him, and he tripped and fell in a crowded restaurant, which could happen to anyone, and unfortunately he fell right into your broken case, and because it was so sharp he required an ambulance ride and eight stitches. If there was no broken sharp edge, we wouldn't be having this conversation."

He asked in an accusatory tone-"So you want money is that it?" I thought "Duh". But come on, what I am asking for is hardly going to put the shop out of business, it is probably only three or four times the cost of our not-so-tasty, over-priced lunch. I had already informed him that we are only looking for some assistance with the deductible on our ambulance ride and our co-pay, which is in the neighborhood of $300. It isn't as though I am demanding reimbursement for pain and suffering, missing out on 1/4 of a pre-paid birthday party at a bounce house place, where our newly injured child received doctors orders not to bounce, or for cosmetic surgery to remove Zack's scar, but his attitude has tempted me pursue such a route.

The owner then ended the conversation by telling me he wouldn't discuss this anymore over the phone, that I needed to first provide receipts and then we could continue a conversation. Of course I anticipated that I would need to provide documentation, and that seemed like a reasonable request, however there was not one ounce of remorse or kindness from this man, and it honestly stirred up so much irritation and anger in me I had to resist the urge to spout out all kinds of silly threats... "I know a lot of people in Denver Mr... the Highland's Mommies can make or break your little business". But I held my tongue, and simply informed him that I would have expected him to show a bit more concern for a customer injured on his property, and that I would be in touch.

It seems like a royal pain in the you-know-what to actually go through with all of this for a mere $300, but now-it's about principle. This man screwed with the wrong mommy.

Monday, October 26, 2009


I am not sure why it annoys me so much, gushing parents bubbling over with pride when they discuss their "gifted" child. Am I insecure or worried about my own child's lack of brilliance? Not particularly. Zack is a wonderful, silly, "spirited" little boy, but I would not describe him as "gifted", and I am okay with that. So why do I feel the intense urge to roll my eyes when I hear someone discuss the difficulties of finding a preschool that will really challenge their little Jimmy who is doing math and speaking french at 3 and a half? I suppose that really may be an issue for them. Jimmy may be bored in a preschool with all that singing and silly art work.

Today I read a post on the Berkeley Parent's Network that irked me. It was a parent describing their truly gifted four year old. Apparently this child is reading at a third grade level, composing complex text messages and doing basic multiplication. No- I am not exaggerating. This parent wanted advice on how to find the right kindergarten program for their baby genius, but wasn't sure what to do since miracle boy was more advanced than most third graders she knew. I had to wonder-was she herself exaggerating a little? Complex text messages? My child could barely use the phone to call 911 if he needed to. I think he believes that screaming 911 at the receiver would do the trick. Well if all of this is true then her child surely is "gifted", but do we have to use that word?

Zachary as I mentioned would likely not qualify as gifted, but does that mean then by default, he is without gifts? Of course not! He is to me the most amazing gift ever. He is my son, and he has amazing "gifts" or qualities. Maybe we should call the wiz kids something like "advanced", or "accelerated", or "with parents who have the insane ability to bring up how smart their babies are at every possible opportunity".

Ahh well, it's a pet peeve, and perhaps a little healthy venting on a Monday night.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Let's Eat In.

I didn't want to become that parent. I wanted to rise above it, I wanted to remain a hipster whose kids really wouldn't cramp my style. I'm not the sit at home kind of gal, I'm a social butterfly, a person who gets out to where the action is. I have always taken my kids out to restaurants. Granted I know our limits, we don't haul the monkeys to white table cloth and candle light venues, but we like to enjoy good meals at family friendly restaurants. Parents have to get out to you know, and we all have to eat.

Well it's happened. I think I am calling a temporary hiatus on eating out with the kids, anywhere other than McDonald's that is-and since we don't typically "do" fast food, I guess that means meals at home from now on. My parents are in town this weekend, and today we had two unsuccessful/disastrous meals out with the kids that really sealed the deal.

We had lunch at Saul's, the Jewish deli not far from our home. It was a late lunch, so I suppose I was pushing my luck to begin with. Zack had already had his noon time meal at preschool, and it was 1:30. I knew I could keep my eldest child happy with a giant Black & White cookie, and I was right, he was an angel eating away at his treat that was bigger than my head the entire meal. It was Evan who presented the problems. I thought I had a great action plan. As soon as we sat down I placed an order for a child's milk and a fruit cup, so that he would have something to snack on while we waited for the main event. The waiter dutifully brought out his milk right away, a glass (yes the type that breaks) filled to the rim with milk and no lid to speak of. Not the best option for a 16 month old, but then it was probably my fault to arrive unprepared sans sippy cup. The milk presented an ongoing challenge throughout the meal, as Evan grabbed for his drink and continually spilled it down his front, on the table and the floor. The fruit was barely a distraction, after a few bites,Evan began to attempt his favorite stunt- High Chair Standing (a variation of grocery cart surfing-another favorite). From the standing position he then ventured to crawling on the table top. After about five minutes of this, I had enough. I decided to take my dare devil outside to run free until our meals arrived at the table. We ran outside happily on the sidewalk for several minutes until lunch was served.

Evan had zero interest in his grill cheese sandwich, and it went completely untouched. I shoved my chicken salad down in mouthfuls, not even tasting the food, just wishing the meal to be finished, and planning our escape. As we were awaiting the bill Evan gave a grand finale, taking a paper cup of cream soda and throwing it to the floor as my Aunt Beryl let out a yelp. The other diners turned to look, some amused and some visibly disgusted. I left before the check arrived, leaving my parent's to pick up the bill.

Tonight we went to a famously kid-friendly pub for dinner. The place has a play area, and there were really no diners who arrived without children. Even so, I did not enjoy my meal. Evan put on a similar show, I ate my sandwich in gulps, and scooped up the kids leaving before the rest of our party. What a waste of money.

Honestly, it's just not worth it. It has become aggravating, embarrassing and exhausting. As much as I hate to throw in the towel and give up one my favorite past-times, I think it will ultimately be easier on us, and the waiters & waitresses of the world will be eternally grateful if we simply stay home.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009


Today I found the most amazing toy store along Solano Avenue. It is a cramped little place stuffed with new and old toys. Half the store has the new stuff-the trendy Melissa & Doug toys, all brightly colored, no batteries required, wooden treasures, the plush animals, the top-of-line soft-sided lunch boxes and the cutest tea sets. But better than anything they have several shelves with bins of 1970's era play things. My toys. Mostly Fischer Price. They have the Little People Barn, The House, The Garage. They had the chatter phone, the plastic train set. They had toys I did not remember until I saw them once more in all their plastic glory. I had to have them. For some reason My Toys, seem so much better than the ones that fill the aisles of Target today. All the noisy battery-operated gadgets my sons play with. My Toys required imagination, My Toys were cuter, My Toys were simply more fun. Or whatever. In any case I had an urge to posses these Fischer Price wonders once again.

These toys must be in high demand. The Little People House with the yellow roof, which I remember so vividly ran $300. $300! So apparently I am not the only one overcome with nostalgia when presented with the toys of my youth. So rather than springing for the big ticket items, I opted for a Ziploc bag containing two little people with of their "toys" a blue airplane, a green and white horse on yellow wheels, a blue car with a white steering wheel that moves up and down and a bright red choo-choo. And then I saw the fire truck, and the memory was so very vivid. Red plastic with a yellow retractable latter. The fire man in white and black. It was crazy. Seeing that fire truck, it felt like it was just yesterday I was five years old and zooming it around my bedroom floor. Building a city with wooden blocks, and driving my little people in and out of it in their various automobiles. As I grew a little older my sister and I would play with those toys for hours and hours. Touching it, I felt almost transformed to my preschool self, and I think I love that toy as much today as I did then, perhaps more.

I bought those toys for my children, but have an urge to keep them tucked away in my dresser for myself. For what? So I can take them out and play with them when nobody is looking? Well that is just silly. So I let Zachary play with them, and he regarded him with as much interest as he does any of his toys, with an initial burst of enthusiasm which will soon give way to general ambivalence. I look around his crowded playroom and wonder which if any of this toys will he remember? What memories will he treasure 30 years from now? Perhaps he will remember our walk along Solano today, buying pumpkins on a cool fall autumn afternoon, and stopping in a toy store where his mommy bought him special toys, and took him home to play.